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Colby Keefe is a member of Henderson Franklin's Real Estate Department and Condo & HOA Group. She also has experience in condominium and homeowners’ association law. Colby endeavors to provide clients with clear and understandable counsel on a broad range of association issues including interpretation and amending of governing documents, contracting with vendors, zoning ordinances, liability policies, collections, foreclosures, and compliance with applicable state and federal laws such as the Fair Housing Act.

Colby is also a seasoned speaker and provides continuing education and board certification courses to condominium association managers. She also understands the nuances of association operations and has established strong relationships with Board members, management firms, and community association industry professionals as a member of the Community Association Institute.

The Florida legislature’s special session held this week resulted in new laws aimed to promote condominium building safety. Senate Bill 4D passed the House of Representatives and Senate each, and was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on May 26, 2022.

The legislation comes nearly one year after the devastating partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South residential condominium in Surfside, Florida. Following the tragedy, Florida’s legislature grappled with proposed legislative during the regular session in March 2022, but the condominium building safety laws proposed ultimately were not passed at that time. The special session presented a second, and successful, opportunity to revisit these proposals. The new laws represent statewide and industry-wide efforts to prevent similar tragedies in the future by mandating a variety of preventative measures, including:

  • “Milestone inspections” of condominium buildings at least three stories in height must be performed when the structures reaches 30 years since its Certificate of Occupancy and every 10 years thereafter. For similarly situated condominium buildings that are within 3 miles of a coastline, the milestone inspection must be performed when the structure reaches 25 years, and every 10 years thereafter.
  • A “structural integrity reserve study” is now required to be performed at least every 10 years after the condominium’s creation for each building on the condominium property that is three stories or higher. The study must include the roof, load bearing walls, floor, foundation, fireproofing and fire protection systems, plumbing, and any item with a deferred maintenance or replacement cost that exceeds $10,000.00.
  • Furthermore, Members cannot opt-out of the mandatory funding of reserves for structural integrity components, regardless of a membership vote approving same.
  • Requiring inspection reports and studies to be kept as Official Records and available and published to Members.
  • Clear developer requirements for building inspections, structural integrity reserve study, and funding requirements prior to transition to the residents.
  • Engagement of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and local municipalities to track condominium buildings and the inspection reporting.

While the legislation presents new requirements from the current regulations, it is not the first time that inspections have been required by the Condominium Act. In 2008, House Bill 995 was adopted, requiring inspections for three-story condominium buildings every 5 years, though a majority of voting interest could opt-out of this requirement. That law was later repealed in 2010; at that time, many advocates for repealing the law cited reducing fiscal costs in the wake of the Great Recession.

When does the new law take effect?


Continue Reading New condominium building laws adopted in Florida seek to prevent future Surfside tragedies

Forgetting to turn on the air conditioner before heading back up north for the summer and coming back to find mold growth.

An undetected pipe leak.

Forgotten running faucets that spill over onto the floor and beyond.

These types of incidents can be inconvenient and expensive for anyone, but they pose a heightened threat to any of the persons living in the approximately 1.5 million residential condominium units in Florida.

By its nature, condominium ownership requires cooperation and some forfeited freedom of its residents by putting neighbors in close proximity to each other with shared common elements. As summarized by Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal,

[c]ondominium unit owners comprise a little democratic sub society of necessity more restrictive as it pertains to use of condominium property than may be existent outside the condominium organization.”

Hidden Harbour Estates, Inc. v. Norman, 309 So.2d at 181–82. This close proximity of living creates an expanded zone of risk, with the action (or inaction) of one person potentially affecting multiple neighbors.

As a result, unit owners are charged with being more diligent in the use of their units. For example, some condominiums pass rules regarding the frequency of cleaning out dryer vents to reduce the risk of a fire. In a single family residential home, neglecting to change a dryer vent can be done at one’s own risk; in a condominium where a fire can quickly cause widespread destruction to an entire building, that risk is unknowingly being assumed by all of the unit owners – not just the resident who opts to run the dryer for a fifth time instead of folding laundry.

But regardless of the language in governing documents that require owners to maintain their units, or take certain actions and refrain from others, accidents happen. When damage results, who is responsible? More often than not, the answer to the question “who is responsible for fixing this?” is, frustratingly for owners and associations, “it depends.” And it depends on a number of factors.

Maintenance Obligations


Continue Reading Distinguishing between maintenance responsibility and financial responsibility in the wake of damage to condominium property

CondoThe devastating collapse of one of the Champlain Towers South 12-story beachfront residential condominium towers in Surfside, Florida, has prompted officials at the local, state, and federal level to assess what precautions should be taken – or mandated – to prevent similar tragedies. At present, the cause of the collapse is still unknown.

In the wake of the collapse, however, a past engineering report has resurfaced which indicates that the tower had “major structural damage” as of October 2018. The same report concluded that the necessary repair work would be extremely expensive and create a significant disruption for residents. Whether the association acted upon this information reasonably will, unfortunately, be the source of litigation for months and years to come and has caused many condominium associations throughout the state to look in the mirror.

What are associations required to do to avoid a tragedy like Champlain Towers? What should associations do, even if not required by law?

Florida’s Condominium Act addresses engineering reports and warranties to be made by developers of a residential condominium, generally at the time of building or at such time that control of the association transitions to the members. However, there are few, if any, mandates at the state level as to a continued obligation to inspect the structural integrity of buildings. Politicians and residents throughout Florida have called on the state to enact mandatory requirements for building recertification, but Governor Ron DeSantis has not committed to any state action to that effect.

Through the efforts of advocacy groups and industry leaders such as CAI and Florida’s Real Property, Probate, Trust and Litigation Section, which has appointed a Condominium Law & Policy Life Safety Advisory Task Force, it is possible that future legislative sessions will see proposed laws aimed to prevent or minimize the likelihood of similar tragedies. In the absence of such legislation, though, condominium associations are guided primarily by local ordinances (to the extent they exist), and the business judgment of the board of directors.

Continue Reading Condominium associations react to tragedy in Surfside, Florida

Naples FL CondoCondominiums, cooperatives, and homeowners associations will see many changes to their operations following the new laws borne from Florida’s 2021 legislative session. Among these changes are new laws governing rental restrictions in homeowners associations in Senate Bill 630. The bill, which passed both the House and Senate, is anticipated to be signed into law by Governor DeSantis and will have an effective date of July 1, 2021.

The new law reflects the homeowners association’s corollary to rental restrictions which have been in Chapter 718 (the “Condominium Act”) since 2004. In summary, the new law will implement that following changes affecting how and against whom rental restrictions may be enforced in homeowners associations:
Continue Reading New laws prompt HOAs to examine – and quickly change – rental restrictions in advance of July 1, 2021 effective date

Gated CommunityThe 2021 Florida Legislative session, which ended on April 30, 2021, was an active one for proposed community association legislation.

The following community association-related bills have either been signed into law or have passed the House and Senate and are pending signature by Governor DeSantis, with anticipated effective dates provided:
Continue Reading 2021 Florida legislative session brings significant changes to community association laws

Earlier this week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed S.B. 72 into law, which grants some civil immunity to business entities against plaintiffs bringing COVID-19 injury and wrongful death claims. A review of the impact S.B. 72 has on business entities and civil claims is provided by my colleague and litigation attorney Heath Gelman here. The bill applies to “certain business entities,” in recognition of the public interest as a whole served by

providing relief to these business … so that they may remain viable and continue to contribute to this state.”

Among other types of businesses included in the definition of “business entities” are corporations not-for-profit under Sec. 617.01401, Fla. Stat. Based on a plain reading of the law, this would include condominium and homeowners’ associations, although it remains to be seen how the application of the law will be interpreted as it percolates in Florida courts.

Sigh of relief


Continue Reading New COVID-19 Civil Immunity Law Provides Relief to Florida Condo and HOAs

Our team previously wrote about pet restrictions in a 2014 article located here. Nearly six years later, pet restrictions continue to be a breeding ground for confusion, particularly with respect to fair housing and discrimination laws and as those laws relate to recent legislation which took effect in July 2020.

According to statistics provided by The Humane Society of the United States, approximately 67% of all households throughout the United States had a pet based on data collected from 2019-2020. While pets have become a mainstay in most American households, they are not necessarily as common in condominium and homeowners association. The governing documents of many community associations impose limits on the types and number of pets a member or tenant may keep in a unit or home.

These pet restrictions take varying forms; sometimes, the goal is to curtail what are deemed to be aggressive or dangerous breeds as defined by the governing documents. In other instances, a restriction may limit the number of pets a single owner may keep, or may define what types of animals are deemed domesticated and permitted to be kept as a pet at all.

Proceed with caution


Continue Reading Pet restrictions revisited: Community associations continue to navigate pet restrictions as new Florida law addresses fraudulent emotional support animal claims and documentation