Q: My condominium association recently voted on several amendments to the condominium documents. They presented the amendments as one vote, either in favor of all of the changes or against all of the changes. Is this permissible? Shouldn’t we be allowed to vote on each change? (A.A., via e-mail)
A: While there are specific legal requirements about the way amendments must be presented for a vote, there is no requirement that each change be separately voted upon. Whether to present the vote as “all or nothing” or as individual votes on each change is a decision for the board.
Section 718.110(1)(b) of the Florida Condominium Act states a proposal to amend existing provisions of the declaration shall contain the full text of the provision to be amended, new words shall be inserted in the text and underlined, and words to be deleted shall be lined through with hyphens. The statute also provides that if the proposed changes are so extensive that the strike through/underline procedure would hinder rather than assist the understanding of the proposed amendment, the proposed amendment can be presented with the notation that the amendment is a substantial rewording of the declaration and cite to the current provision of the present text. Amendments to the bylaws must follow the same process.
When only a few amendments, each addressing different topics, are up for vote, the “line item” vote is the preferred method. However, when there are extensive amendments, particularly when considering proposed “amended and restated” documents, the line-item voting method is not feasible as the various provisions of the documents are usually tied together and may not match up to either the numbering system or text of the current documents. In this scenario, the “take it or leave it” approach is commonly used. This approach does present the risk that an owner may generally favor the update but vote against the documents because of one isolated issue. Smoking restrictions, pet regulations, and rental procedures are probably the top three on that list. In these cases, some associations do segregate “controversial” items out for a separate line-item vote but have the overall document update voted on as a single question.
Q: Our HOA management company is telling residents that it is against Florida law to display a military flag on our property. Can you shed some light on this subject? (A.N., via e-mail)
A: The Florida Homeowners’ Association Act provides that a homeowner may display in a respectful manner one portable, removable United States flag or official flag of the State of Florida; and one portable, removable official flag not larger than 4.5-feet by 6-feet, that represents the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, or a POW-MIA flag, regardless of any covenants, restrictions, or rules of the homeowners’ association. Additionally, a homeowner may erect a freestanding flagpole no more than 20-feet high on any portion of the homeowner’s property, provided that the flagpole does not obstruct sightlines at intersections and is not erected within an easement.
The Florida Condominium Act permits a unit owner to display, in a respectful way, one portable, removable United States flag and portable, removable official flags, not larger than 4.5-feet by 6-feet, that represents the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard. These flags may be flown on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day, regardless of any provisions of the condominium documents concerning flags or decorations.
There is also proposed legislation that would amend the flag provisions under both statutes. If adopted the new laws would allow owners to display a flag recognizing the United States Space Force, the newest branch of the Armed Forces of the United States, on designated holidays. There would also be a right to display a flag honoring “first responders.” This proposed legislation would also permit the display of a POW-MIA in condominiums, limit owners to two flags under both statutes, and remove the limitation relating to flying certain flags only on specified days.
If this proposed legislation is adopted, which Tallahassee insiders tell me is likely, it would take effect on July 1, 2022.
Joseph Adams is a Board Certified Specialist in Condominium and Planned Development Law, and an Office Managing Shareholder with Becker & Poliakoff. Please send your community association legal questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Past editions of the Q&A may be viewed at floridacondohoalawblog.com.