Sunshine Laws & Condominium Associations
Sunshine laws are regulations essentially requiring openness and transparency from governmental actors, which in turn allows the public to have a better understanding of (and often, more of a role in) governance and politics. The state of Florida has its broad Sunshine In The Government Act, allowing access to almost all public records, though there are certain exceptions. One of those ‘exceptions’ is community associations, specifically condo boards, despite the fact that some association records are public. Thankfully, Florida’s Condominium Act does establish certain ‘sunshine’-type requirements that community associations must follow, in order to ensure that records and information is available to anyone who needs it.
Transparency Is Required
Even someone who is totally unfamiliar with community associations can understand that transparency in business dealings is crucial. Sunshine laws lay bare court proceedings, negotiations, and meeting minutes, among other documents, which puts consumer and seller on a far more equal playing field. In general, while the Sunshine-in-the-Government Act does not apply to condo boards, it is advisable for a board to conduct itself as if they do. If a condo board acquires a reputation for secrecy or otherwise being disconnected from the needs of the association, trouble invariably follows.
The most common ways that a condo board may lose the trust of its owners is to make business decisions without their input (perhaps by not providing notice of a board meeting) and to hold the records of those decisions apart from the public. If, for example, a quorum of board members meets in person or otherwise gets in contact with one another, and they discuss association issues without consulting anyone else or creating records, the condo owners may have grounds to compel production of those records or at least to be apprised of what they contain.
Board Meetings Can Cause The Most Issues
One of the most common situations where openness may become an issue is board meetings, and the fact that members may wish to keep certain topics private or want to plan a move before acquainting the association members with a situation. However, the Florida Condominium Act holds that if a quorum of board members is present at any kind of discussion – in Florida, a majority of the voting interest holders – it constitutes a ‘meeting,’ and must be opened to the association members. There are rare exceptions to this rule, but in general, association members have a right to transparency from their board.
Meetings may also become a bone of contention if they are not properly noticed (that is, if owners are not given proper notice of an upcoming board meeting) or inappropriate limits on speech are enforced at board meetings. In Florida, owners have the absolute right to speak on all agenda items at open meetings, but sometimes board members may try to limit such discussion, either for the purpose of efficiency or simply to close down dissent. This failure of transparency may be actionable, depending on the circumstances.
Contact A Tampa Community Association Attorney
While community associations have a duty of openness, there are several reasons given as to why they might not be very open after all. If you are a condo owner and are tired of being left in the proverbial dark, be aware that you have rights in these situations. Tampa HOA & condo association lawyer Alicia Seward and the Seward Law Office are ready to try and assist you with your case. Contact our offices today to schedule a consultation.