J.P. from Florida writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Can my Florida condo board state in the declaration that immediate family is considered to be someone related by blood or marriage and now say that they consider it to be children, parents, grandchildren or grandparents? I have none of these. My family is my sister, aunt & uncle and cousins, all who have been using my condo for the past three years. The board just keeps changing rules about everything without communicating the changes. My uncle stayed at my apartment a couple of months ago for several weeks. I emailed the building manager and cc’d all the board members and there was no issue. But, when I contacted them recently to advise that my sister will be staying in November and my cousin in February, I was told it wasn’t allowed. I queried this and they said it had always been the rule that immediate family was children, parents, grandchildren, grandparents and this was actually the legal definition recognized by courts. Hasn’t at least a precedent been set that they’ve allowed my relatives to stay for the past 3 years?
Mister Condo replies:
J.P., I can sense your frustration at what appears to be an ever-changing application of rules and the actual rules, themselves. I am not an expert is Florida community association law nor am I an attorney so please accept my advice as friendly and not legal. For a proper legal opinion, I suggest you speak with a qualified local Florida attorney. My understanding of the rules on who can and cannot stay in most Florida condominiums is the most recent iteration from your Board. That is, immediate family is often defined as Father, Mother, Son, and Daughter. Further, both the definition of “family” and the enforcement of the rules are at the discretion of the Board as long as they don’t discriminate against one single unit owner. In other words, they can’t ban you from housing your sister and cousin while allowing another unit owner to do so. Technically, they could have prevented your uncle from staying with you previously but they chose not to. There are lots of factors that go into the enforcement of these rules in my experience. Peak times of usage (December through April in many Florida communities) require a stricter adherence to the rules or the common facilities like parking lots, pools, tennis courts, etc., can become overused by too many guests. Enforcement of the rules in an “off” season may not be as big a priority as there isn’t as much demand on the common areas. One of my Florida attorney friends, Lisa Magill of Becker & Poliakoff likes to use the phrase “it depends”. You can read her response to a similar question on her blog here: http://www.floridacondohoalawblog.com/2011/05/articles/covenant-enforcementviolations/what-rules-and-regulations-are-enforceable/ Good luck!