Condo Line

‘Office’ renter has no rights

Q. I have a friend who owns a condominium near where I live. I have been paying him a monthly fee to use the pool, the fitness center, and for a bedroom to use as an office. Recently, a condominium member inquired about my friend and me. I told him I was renting a room from my friend who has a three-bedroom unit. I told him that over the years he has rented to others. The member told me that I needed to be approved by the board as a tenant and pay a screening fee. I submitted the information and paid the fee and then was told that since I did not sleep in the unit, I was not approved and was asked to leave the pool area. The way I see it, I am paying rent. How much I pay and whether I sleep there is not relevant to the condominium association. Is there a legal reference that I can quote defending my position?

C.B., Clearwater

I do not believe that you have any defense for either situation. First, most condominium documents do not allow commercial business to be conducted on the property. Also, most insurance policies for the condominium exclude commercial business on the property. Say your computer causes a fire in the unit and it spreads to other areas in the building; repairs to the building may not be paid by the insurance since the cause was by a business. Say one of the clients comes to your “office” and trips and falls. This results in a lawsuit. Again, the building insurance will not pay for a legal defense.

The second problem is that while you are paying to use the bedroom, this does not give you the right to use the pool and fitness center. Statutes say that anytime a unit owner rents his unit, he no longer has the right to use the common facilities. Many condominium documents define how units can control renters and new owners and give the board a right to screen new residents.

Here are a couple of other things that you should have to operate your business. Do you have proper licenses and permits and do they list the condominium’s address? If not, then you may be in violation of local laws. Do you provide your own business insurance? If not, then you could face serious losses if a client sues you. No, you do not have the right to rent a room in most condominiums and use the facilities. If you do, you must comply with the documents, rules and regulations.

Q. Recently I have assumed the duties of secretary for my association. I have searched the statutes and cannot find any reference to how long an association must retain minutes from previous boards. In our office we have minutes back to 1970. Can you help me to understand how and how long minutes should be retained?

D.M., Pinellas

The reference for condominiums is FS 718.111(12) Official Records and for HOA FS 720.303(4) Official Records. Both say that minutes must be retained in a book for seven years. It is assumed that the “book” would be a three-ring notebook for each year. Before you start tossing out the older books or files, I would have the board approve the removal of them. You might want to scan the minutes into a digital file. But that could bring up a potential problem if the association is sued and you still have the older minutes. I would review the statutes, listed above, and purge your older files as indicated.

Q. I manage a condominium for my mother and rent it for her. Recently during a refurbishment, after the tenant moved out, the repairman reported that the tile in the bathroom showed that there had been water penetration. I notified management and they reported that the leak was coming from the unit above. I reported the matter to our insurance company and it sent an adjuster to inspect the damage. The upstairs unit’s shower pan was leaking and the owner made repairs. The adjuster’s report indicated that there was mold and I would have to pay the deductible and the cost of mold removal. Why do I have to pay for this loss? It was not my fault that caused the damage.

K.W., Kissimmee

This is a common question. Each owner is responsible for the loss or damage to his or her unit and personal property, regardless of the source of the cause. Normally upstairs owners are responsible for repairs of damage and their own repairs, the lower unit is responsible for the loss to that unit and personal property, and the condominium should only be responsible for replacement of unfinished drywall. I cannot answer the question as to the insurance company or the adjustor’s report, as that would be determined by the policy you purchased.

Write to Condo Line, Richard White, 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., #201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115, or e-mail Include name and city.

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