The 2017 bill providing website guidelines for condominium associations with more than 150 units (which does not contain timeshares) is going through some growing pains. The new law amended Section 718.111 of the Florida Statute and raises issues boards must consider as they strive for compliance.
The law, geared toward improving transparency and accountability between boards and residents, puts boards on notice that they can face felony charges if found guilty of specific breaches. Violations include electoral fraud, forged signatures on ballots, conflict of interest, and misappropriation of funds, to name a few. While most associations in Florida are managed with integrity, some are not. The law is directed at the latter.
Transparency and communication often start with a website, and the law stipulates how they must be structured.
The first major change is that the deadline for compliance was adjusted Dec. 31, 2018 to Jan. 1, 2019. Compliance and enforcement seem to have become a moving target without clear-cut policies.
It’s clear that failure to post a required document on the condominium association’s website is a violation of the law and could result in a $10 to $30 per-unit penalty. It is too early to know how the Department of Business and Professional Regulations (“DBPR”) will enforce violations and whether it will immediately issue fines or first issue warning letters.
Initially, the law seemed to guide associations on how to improve operations. First offenders were simply sent a warning letter, requiring the association to fix the violation to comply with the law.
Recently, some inspectors have gone straight to penalties. Keep in mind that every inspector can be different regarding enforcement. One common denominator seems to be that those penalized failed to provide inspection of an association’s official records upon a resident’s request. With thousands of associations in Florida, it’s unlikely the DBPR is actively viewing websites. Rather, the DBPR intervenes when a resident files a complaint, claiming a violation. It’s the “squeaky wheel” dynamic that sets things in motion for what can be significant penalties.
The following relates to website requirements:
- Information must be updated in a timely fashion. Each owner must be provided a login and password.
- The website must contain various condominium association official records including, without limitation, all governing documents, rules and regulations; all contracts, management and other agreements to which the association is a party. This is not an exhaustive or complete list.
- t must publish the annual budget and proposed annual budget, financial reports, board certifications, notice of any unit owner and board member meetings and the agenda within the statutory time periods. They must be posted in plain view on the front page of the website or a separate subpage of the website labeled “Notices” which is conspicuously visible and linked from the front page along with any document to be considered and voted on by the owners during the meeting or any document listed on the agenda, notices of board meetings and agendas within the statutory time periods.
- Other requirements of the law regarding orderly sharing of information includes:
- Any information and documents which are restricted from being accessible to unit owners may not be posted on the website or, if posted, the protected information must be fully redacted.
- Official records are expanded to include bids for materials, equipment, services.
- Annual financial reports must be provided within five (5) days of request by a unit owner.
The onus is on the board to follow this law. The legislation is in the best interests of homeowners and the lines of open communications starts with a functioning and informative web site.