Do you need to install fire sprinklers in your condominium common elements and/or units? Do you need to install an Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS) in your condominium? Do you need to conduct a membership vote to opt-out of the fire sprinkler requirement? These are just a few of the questions that have arisen as the December 31, 2016 and December 31, 2019 deadlines for fire sprinkler retro-fitting quickly approaches.

Inevitably, the specter of probate will come along to possibly complicate an association’s efforts to recover monies owed on delinquent accounts. Probate is a court-supervised process for identifying and gathering the assets of a deceased person, paying debts, and distributing assets to his or her beneficiaries. Probate is necessary for distributing assets that are not properly disbursed in a will. In general, the deceased’s assets are used first to pay the cost of the probate proceeding, then are used to pay the outstanding debts, while the remainder is distributed to the beneficiaries.

Ask the Experts -- April 27, 2016

On April 27, our very own Candice J. Gundel, Esq. will be sitting on the panel of a very special "Ask the Experts" event at the Hilton Carillon Park in St. Petersburg. 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) assists consumers by regulating banks, credit agencies, and financial companies.  The CFPB is now taking an interest in zombie properties and together with the Community Association Institute (CAI) is asking for our help to report and regulation zombie properties and the banks responsible for them.  The CFPB has rules requiring banks to maintain distressed properties during the pendency of a mortgage foreclosure. 

When is a secured debt not a secured debt?  When the bankruptcy court deems it so.  When a delinquent unit owner files a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, each debt must be disclosed, verified, classified, and addressed. 

I briefly mentioned the estoppels legislation in my January 2016 newsletter.  SB 0722 and HB 0203 still continue to move forward at this time, but HB 0203 has undergone some association friendly amendments recently.  Specifically HB 0203 was amended to increase the estoppel fee provision and allow associations and their agents to collect an estoppel fee in advance of a real estate closing.  While these amendments are a step in the right direction, both SB 0722 and HB 0203 still contain many provisions which will be detrimental to community associations and I encourage you to contact your Legislator to oppose both of these bills. 

Mediation is becoming more and more popular in Florida, especially in foreclosure cases.  Judges are using it as a tool to unclog the backlog of cases, as well as funnel new filings through an alternative route.  While mediation can often help parties reach a resolution without further litigation, it is important to understand the mediation process beforehand.

While most other states are rightfully envious of our weather in Florida, living here still means that we must deal with the occasional deluge of rain associated with a hurricane or large storm.  With this rainfall comes potential issues with our neighbors regarding drainage.  Who is responsible for damage brought about by improving your land to deal with this excess water?

On January 12, 2016 the Florida Legislative Session for 2016 opened.  This year the session began much earlier and we already have several bills filed that propose significant changes to Florida condominium, homeowner, and co-operative associations. 

Many of us choose to live in planned communities, whether it is a Homeowner or Condominium Association, because we value the benefits and security provided by the governing documents.  However, with these benefits comes the responsibility of adhering to the guidelines established in the governing documents and Florida Statute.  It is the responsibility of the Board of Directors to ensure that the governing documents in your community are being enforced in a uniform manner.  This job can be extraordinarily difficult and thankless, that is why there are professionals such as managers, accountants and attorneys to help. 

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