Q: I live in a condominium complex. Over the past few years, residents have been building patios on common ground. The board will not do anything. What are my next steps without hiring an attorney?
Answer: You are correct in that no condominium owner has the right to use the common grounds for personal use. FS 718.106 says that: “Each owner is entitled to use the common elements in accordance with the purpose for which they were intended, but no use may hinder or encroach upon the lawful rights of other unit owners.”
You can sue the board and the owners, but that is expensive. I would first try to get the board members to acknowledge their responsibility to have the owners in violation restore the common grounds. That will require a certified letter addressed to the board of directors explaining the improper use of common grounds.
Ask them if they have talked to the association’s attorney and insurance agent to determine the condominium’s liability. Ask them if they have received proper permits from the county or other government agencies. You also need to plan for the next annual meeting. Depending on the action of the board, you need to inform the board in writing that you want a motion to force the board to restore the common area by making the guilty owners remove their patios.
There may be some property tax liability for the owners who improved their units, but that will require an investigation by the property appraiser. You also need to determine if there will be maintenance costs incurred by the association by allowing the patios. You should seek records to find out who approved the additions.
Q: We have a condominium owner who constantly stores personal belongings in the hallway — a common element. In spite of numerous requests by the board and association manager to remove the items, he continues to use this area as his own. Can these items be considered abandoned?
Answer: If you want to remove the items, have your attorney render the necessary advice on how to remove the personal property. Have you contacted the county fire inspector? Many times that office will issue a warning about blocking the area that can cause delays in event of a fire. Keep in mind that you need legal support, either from your attorney or other government agencies, before you remove the items.
Richard White is a licensed community association manager. He does not offer legal opinions; any other questions and comments concerning association operations can be sent to Richard White, 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., No. 201, Winter Haven FL 33884-4115; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.