TC Palm Q&A Column, November 12, 2017

By November 12, 2017News, Questions & Answers

Editor’s note: Attorneys at Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC., respond to questions about Florida community association law. The firm represents community associations throughout Florida and focuses on condominium and homeowner association law, real estate law, litigation, estate planning and business law.

Q: Our HOA has a management company that runs our 1200 unit association. They refuse to tell the owners what individual employees make, claiming they are the management’s employees and not ours. Yet, they tell us they are giving OUR employees a raise. Shouldn’t owners have a right to know where our fees are going and to whom? Thank you for your time.

B.J., Fort Pierce

A: Yes, you are certainly entitled to know how your money is being spent but the law does provide that some individual salary information is protected. Specifically, Section 720.303(5)(c)5 of the Homeowners Association Act provides that the following Association records are not allowed to be provided to owners: “Personnel records of association or management company employees, including, but not limited to, disciplinary, payroll, health, and insurance records. For purposes of this subparagraph, the term “personnel records” does not include written employment agreements with an association or management company employee or budgetary or financial records that indicate the compensation paid to an association or management company employee.” So, while you are not entitled to the payroll records of the individual management company employees you are entitled to the management company contract and other “financial records that indicate the compensation” paid to the employee. From this information, you may be able to discern individual salaries.

Q: Our CAM recently sent an e-mail to all unit owners that the clubhouse would be closed to residents for three weeks, stating that the workers (outside contractors) cleaning up the property damage from hurricane Irma needed a place to eat/rest and the clubhouse would be closed for that purpose. Many scheduled activities are held in the clubhouse and the owners partaking of those activities were told to make other arrangements. Isn’t this an illegal act? Owners are upset and feel that the CAM and board president cannot close the clubhouse to owners to accommodate people who are non-owners. What is your advice?

R.M., Port St. Lucie

A: First and foremost, any decision to close the clubhouse for any purpose is a Board decision not the decision of the president or the manager. With that said I believe the Board does have the authority to utilize the clubhouse for purposes in furtherance of activity that is necessary for the good of the community. Cleaning up the hurricane debris certainly falls into this category. If such closure disrupts the normal use of the clubhouse for a reasonable period of time I think the greater good of having the hurricane debris cleaned up would outweigh the other regular social uses of the clubhouse.

Q: I own a first-floor, ground floor corner condo in a 100 unit building, built in 1970’s. Both the drinking water and fire water lines run under my cement floor. The lines have broken for the second time and flooded my unit. The exposed pipes (about 4 ft under the concrete) look rusted and flaking. They have fixed the pipe and poured new cement. Is the condo association responsible for fixing up my unit? Thanks for your time.

N.L. Hutchinson Island

A: Your question raises several issues. First, if the pipes failed suddenly without warning and flooded your Unit then likely this would be considered an insurable casualty loss and the Association’s insurance would cover the cost of repairing all damaged parts of your unit except floor coverings, wall coverings and personal property. With that said, now that the pipes have failed twice and are very old the Association is likely on notice that this problem will reoccur if not beneath your Unit certainly others. If the Association should reasonably be aware that the problem is going to continue to occur and does nothing to prevent it from happening (i.e. replacing the pipes), then the Association may be considered negligent in maintaining the common element property. In such cases the Association would be responsible for the damage caused to your floor covering, wall covering and personal property and it is possible the that the Association property insurer may deny future claims because the failure was not an unforeseen accident.

Richard D. DeBoest II, Esq., is co-founder and shareholder of the Law firm Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC. Ask questions about your issues for future columns, send your inquiry to: question@gadcllaw.com. The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC or any of our attorneys. Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein. The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.