Community Association Updates
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR FLORIDA CONDOMINIUM AND HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATIONS
On March 9, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order Number 20-52, declaring a state of emergency in the State of Florida. For condominium and homeowners’ associations, this declaration raises the issue of whether certain association emergency powers under Florida Statute 718.1265 (condominiums) or 720.316 (homeowners associations) are now available. These statutes grant special powers to association boards which are reasonably necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the association and the unit owners and others. Although enacted with a natural disaster in mind (not a pandemic), this public health emergency may certainly cause disruption in the association’s operations and impact the health of its residents. Among other things, the emergency powers statutes grant boards the authority to conduct board or membership meetings with notice provided in as practicable a manner as possible (including via publication, radio, United States mail, the Internet, public service announcements, conspicuous posting on the association property, or any other means the board deems appropriate under the circumstances) and authority to cancel and reschedule association meetings. Many associations are now considering precautions such as holding meetings via teleconference or video conference instead of in-person meetings to heed the advice from public health professionals for social distancing.
Following are some suggestions for community associations:
- Continue to monitor developments and follow the guidance of public health officials at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Florida Department of Health which are updating their websites with the latest information.
- If there is a scheduled community association social gathering, consider postponing it.
- Review the applicable emergency powers statute and consult with legal counsel regarding the risks and benefits of invoking.
- For any upcoming Board meetings, consider holding them virtually by hosting an online broadcast and invite participants to join by phone or Skype. If unable to broadcast live, record the meeting and post online soon thereafter.
- For elections or annual meetings, contact your association counsel for advice on available options.
- Implement enhanced cleaning and sanitizing of all common areas of the property, especially any hard, touchable surfaces in lobbies, elevators, gym, pool, clubhouse and public bathrooms.
- Provide hand sanitizer stations and wipes in the lobbies for use by all residents and guests.
- Continuously inform staff and regular visitors of best practices.
- Practice social distancing and urge residents who have fever or other signs of illness to self-quarantine.
- Practice good hygiene.
- If you need to see a doctor, work with a medical professional to discuss transportation options. Per the CDC, if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspect you may have it, you should not use ridesharing, public transportation, or taxis.
Emergency Order 2020-04 was issued on March 27, 2020, by the Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) suspending the limitation that condominium (718.1265 F.S.) and HOA (720.316 F.S.) emergency powers be conditioned upon a “response to damage caused by an event”. Until the expiration of the Governor’s Executive Order 20-52, DBPR decrees that some of the emergency powers are available to these associations to help protect the health, safety and welfare of the association, owners, owner’s family members, tenants, guests, agents or invitees during this COVID-19 crisis. Review the order carefully for the particular approved powers. Also, Gov. DeSantis entered Executive Order 20-87 on March 27 suspending vacation rentals for 14 days.
On March 24, 2020, Governor DeSantis ordered anyone who has entered Florida and has come from an area with substantial community spread to (1) quarantine for 14 days, (2) inform anyone they have had “direct physical contact” with in the last 21 days that they came from such an area. The states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are referenced, but the order is not limited just to those areas. Community associations and rental property managers should be aware of this order, communicate with their residents and review their common area use policies and cleaning procedures (including elevators).
Please reference the CDC environmental cleaning and disinfection recommendations for community facilities with suspected/confirmed coronavirus disease. Please also reference The Governor’s Emergency Orders.
If your association is in need of legal representation, contact Suzanne Blankenship, a Board Certified Condominium and Planned Development Lawyer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 433-6581. Emmanuel Sheppard and Condon represents community associations throughout Northwest Florida.