Condominium & Homeowners' Association Governance

Experienced Gulf Coast Community Association Lawyers

Residential developments are often subject to community association arrangements. The most common and closely related forms of these arrangements are condominiums and homeowners' associations. In Florida and Alabama, there are differences between how these two forms of community association are organized and operated. Certain laws apply to condominium and homeowners' association governance structures. The Gulf Coast attorneys of Milam & Milam can help you seek proper governance for your community association.

Condominium Governance

Each state has its own rules and regulations pertaining to how condominium developments are governed. For example, the Condominium Act in Florida covers the obligations and rights of condominium associations and condominium governance. In general, condominiums are funded by assessments and governed by a council of unit owners. They run the condominium, but most powers and duties are delegated to a board of directors, elected by the council.

Under section 718.108, the condominium association is responsible for maintaining, repairing, and replacing common elements in the complex. These include any condominium property not included within the units, easements through the units for plumbing, conduits and other facilities needed to provide the common elements, an easement of support to contribute to the building's support, and property and installations required to furnish utilities. Other parts of the property also can be designated as common elements.

For example, a condominium association might fail to promptly repair a water pipe in the common elements that leaks and causes interior damage to your unit. You then might have a legal claim against the association. Other common claims against condominium associations include claims related to personal injuries sustained in common areas, failure to enforce covenants, tortious interference with a unit owner’s right to sell, improper use of funds, and interference with a unit owner's quiet use and enjoyment of the property.

Homeowners' Associations

Although homeowners' associations are similar to condominium associations, they are often covered by a separate code sections under state law, and have different rules on disclosure and governance. For instance, Florida Statutes section 720.301 et seq. covers the legal rights and responsibilities of homeowners' associations (HOA), which are defined as entities comprised of homeowners who live within a particular area. The principal purpose of this association is to provide and maintain community facilities and enforce covenants and restrictions.

The HOA is usually made up of the owners of neighboring lots, and its bylaws spell out the HOA's obligations to a board of directors. Typically, the owners of each individual lot have no ownership interest in common areas. By contrast, the HOA owns the common area through a common area deed from the developer. Owners are granted the right to utilize the common areas through an easement provided by the covenants and restrictions.

Negligence is a common basis for lawsuits against an HOA. This may apply when an HOA fails to guard against foreseeable crimes by reasonably maintaining the property. For example, an HOA could be held responsible where it refuses to let a unit owner take remedial action to fix a dangerous condition, such as a broken lock or bad lighting, that then leads to the unit owner being attacked or assaulted. When an association fails to fulfill the duties it agreed to perform in the legal documents, homeowners can sue for breach of covenant. Community associations are obligated to exercise ordinary care in a reasonable and good faith manner in performance of their duties.

A unit owner can also bring a suit on the basis of breach of fiduciary duty if obligations are not expressly outlined in the legal documents, but are implied. This includes adequate funding for repair or a failure to sue a developer for construction defects.

Consult a Knowledgeable Homeowners' Association Governance Attorney

At Milam & Milam, we use our 25 years of combined experience to help Florida and Alabama homeowners in connection with issues that arise in the context of condominium association and homeowners' association governance. We use clear communication, ethical strategies, and cutting-edge technology to advocate on your behalf. Our Fairhope office is located in southern Baldwin County, Alabama on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. We proudly represent clients in Panama City, Pensacola, and Montgomery, among other Gulf Coast locations. Contact us by calling 251-928-0191, or request a consultation through our online form.