Q: I recently contacted my condominium association to get an account status for refinancing my mortgage. I was charged $299.00, which seems like a lot. Is this a valid charge? (J.R., via e-mail)
A: The Condominium Act, the Cooperative Act, and the Homeowners’ Association Act, all regulate the amount the associations can charge for “estoppel certificates.” Estoppel certificates are used in sales and refinances primarily for title insurance purposes, and to make sure accrued assessments are correctly allocated between a buyer and seller.
In 2017, the Florida Legislature revised the statutes to state that an association may not charge more than $250.00 for an estoppel certificate if the unit is not delinquent and the estoppel certificate is not requested on expedited basis. If the estoppel certificate is requested on an expedited basis, the statute states that the association can charge an additional $100.00. Further, if the account is delinquent, the association can charge an additional $150.00.
The statute also provides that every 5 years the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (“Department”) shall update estoppel certificate fees based on the changes in the consumer price index. In July of this year, the Department published the new estoppel fee amount. Effective July 1, 2022, the costs for preparing an estoppel certificate, generally, may not be more than $299.00. An association may charge up to an additional $119.00 if the estoppel certificate is requested on an expedited basis and delivered within 3 business days. Further, for accounts that are delinquent, the association may charge an additional fee not to exceed $179.00.
Therefore, the charge you described seems proper.
Q: Can my condominium association require me to give the manager a key to my unit? (R.B., via e-mail)
A: Yes, if your condominium documents say so.
The Condominium Act states that an association has an irrevocable right of access to each unit during reasonable hours, when necessary for the maintenance, repair, or replacement of any common elements or of any portion of a unit to be maintained by the association pursuant to the declaration of condominium, or as necessary to prevent damage to the common elements or to a unit.
Many condominium documents also require that unit owners provide a key or code to the association for the main unit entry door and private access areas, such as utility rooms or storage closets.
Although the statute does not mention keys or codes, and I do not believe Florida’s appellate courts have ever ruled on the subject, there are numerous decisions from Florida’s condominium arbitration agency which have upheld key requirements.
Q: I know that the records of a homeowners’ association must be made available to a homeowner’s authorized representative. What makes someone an authorized representative? Is a notarized document or power of attorney required? (R.B., via e-mail)
A: As you point out, the Homeowners’ Association Act provides that owners and their “authorized representatives” have the right to inspect and copy the official records of the association. The statute does not define what an authorized representative is or how one is designated.
There is no requirement in the law for a power of attorney or notarized document. I believe the board can adopt reasonable policies on how a designated person is authorized, including a requirement that the owner designate his or her representative in writing.
The condominium and cooperative statutes also allow for records inspection by an owner’s authorized representative, so the same answer would apply.
Q: Can a homeowners’ association allow flagpoles in the back yards only? (S.M., via e-mail)
A: Probably not.
The law states that 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. A homeowner may display, in a respectful manner, one portable, removable United States flag or official flag of the State of Florida and specified armed services flags.
Joe Adams is an attorney with Becker & Poliakoff, P.A., Fort Myers. Send questions to Joe Adams by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Past editions may be viewed at floridacondohoalawblog.com.
Joseph E. 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 email@example.com. Past editions of the Q&A may be viewed at floridacondohoalawblog.com.