“Complaint Letters Must Be Produced” News-Press

“Complaint Letters Must Be Produced” News-Press

Q: I recently sent a letter to the board of my condominium association criticizing the condition of the landscaping at our condominium. I recently found out that the chairperson of the landscaping committee requested a copy of my letter, and the board gave it to her. This feels like a breach of confidentiality. Is the association permitted to give out correspondence from owners to other owners? (LB., via e-mail)

A: Yes. Written documents received by the association pertaining to the operation of the association, including complaint letters, are “official records” and generally available for inspection and copying by other unit owners. With some exceptions, official records must generally be kept for at least 7 years.

Certain official records that are not open to inspection by owners. These include attorney-client privileged information, health records, personnel records of the association management company employees, and personal identifying information of the unit owners including social security numbers, driver license numbers, credit card numbers, e-mail addresses not used for official notice, telephone numbers, facsimile numbers and emergency contact information and any address of the owners not used for official notice.

Telephone numbers, non-record mailing addresses can be published if the owner has given written consent. E-mail addresses are also official records for any units that have given written consent to receive official notices by e-mail, rather than by regular U.S. mail or hand delivery.

Here, if you sent a letter to the association complaining of the condition of the landscaping and another owner requested to inspect that letter, they would be entitled to do so and the association would be obligated to make it available.

The Florida Homeowners’ Association Act and the Florida Cooperative Act contain similar rules.

Q: Our condominium association has four- and six-plex single story adjoined units. Are we permitted to install solar panels when the roof is shared? I do not see any standards addressing this within my association’s documents. (S.A., via e-mail)

A: Section 163.04 of the Florida Statutes provides that a declaration may not prohibit, or have the effect of prohibiting, owners from installing certain renewable energy devises on buildings located on lots or parcels that are subject to the declaration. These devices include “solar collectors, clotheslines, or other energy devices based on renewable resources…” In the condominium context, the statute provides that owners may not be denied the ability to install the solar panels by the approving entity in the declaration, so long as the proposed installation is done within the unit boundaries. However, from a practical standpoint, these panels would rarely be located within the unit boundaries. That would be the relevant inquiry in your situation.

If the roof is part of the common elements, which is usually the case, then there is no legal right to alter the common elements. Section 718.113(7) of the Florida Condominium Act allows a board of directors to install energy savings devices without a unit owner “material alteration” vote that may otherwise be required but does not confer this right on individual owners. Whether the board would have the authority (as opposed to the obligation) to permit such an installation is a question that would be guided entirely by the condominium documents, it is not prohibited by law.

Q: We recently had our annual owners/election meeting, and no notice was given other than a posted announcement the night before. Was this valid? (M.W., via e-mail)

A: Unlikely. The condominium statute requires two notices of the annual meeting and election, the first at least 60 days in advance and the second at least 14 days in advance. The law for homeowners’ associations only requires one notice, but it must be given at least 14 days in advance, unless otherwise provided in the governing documents.

There are also posting requirements in the statutes and the bylaws may impose additional procedures. Unless your association is a voluntary association where this type of error is perhaps of little consequence, the association should conduct its meetings and especially its board elections as required by the law.

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 jadams@beckerlawyers.com. Past editions of the Q&A may be viewed at floridacondohoalawblog.com.