J.P. from Manatee County, Florida writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We are Villas that were converted from 99-year leases several years ago. We had our turnover 2 years ago. We are now re-writing our Declaration. The original Declaration written by the Developer’s attorney included Right of First Refusal (ROFR) for Association and Developer and also Developer had approval for applications for Transfer of Ownership and Occupancy. He also had an Article that these Articles could not be changed without his written approval. The Association wanted to eliminate ROFR and Developer’s approvals. The Developer states they will remain unchanged. The Declaration as the Developer has mandated comes up for Members to vote on soon. We have 32 Units. 75% of owners must approve the new Declaration. Several units are not converted. 2 units are owned by Developer’s Board of Directors. Can the Developer and the 2 Board Members (also on Association BOD) vote their units with these Articles unchanged? Do they count as part of the 75%? The Developer is a Church and some members feel that these powers limit potential buyers and the value of our units.
Mister Condo replies
J.P., I am reminded of the old phrase “Caveat Emptor” (Buyer Beware) as I read your question. I appreciate the association wanting to take its destiny into its own hands but the Developer has a great many rights in this situation, including voting rights on any units still owned by the Developer. One of the great things about community associations and HOAs in Florida is that there are many dedicated legal professionals who service these entities. Your association should most definitely hire a reputable and experience community association lawyer to assist you in this legal journey. It is possible that you may be able to outmaneuver the Developer but you won’t do it accidentally or with a simple vote of the membership. Authorship of the new Articles will also require an experienced attorney to draft and assist in their proper passage. One legal misstep here can cost the community everything so please take my advice to heart and hire a legal professional to help. You’ll be glad you did! Good luck!