Membership Meetings & Official Records Legal Updates
As many of you are aware, there were a number of changes in the law adopted by the Florida Legislature in the 2014 session, some of which we have addressed in previous monthly columns. This column will address some of the more important changes in the law that relate to official records as well as those changes relating to both board and membership meetings for condominium and homeowners associations.
First, with regard to the inspection of official records, both the Homeowners Association Act and the Condominium Act were amended to clarify that the Association may publish a directory containing “all” telephone numbers of each unit owner, and also specifically providing that a unit owner may consent in writing to the disclosure of other contact information. The reason for this clarification is that the previous statute stated that the association directory could contain each unit owner’s telephone number. However, there was some confusion as to whether or not the association could publish multiple phone numbers, and the legislature has clarified this to allow an association to publish all known phone numbers in its directory.
Additionally, both the Condominium Act and the Homeowners Association Act were amended to specifically require that an outgoing board member or committee member must relinquish all association official records or association property within five (5) days after the election. Any board or committee member who willfully or knowingly fails to relinquish such records and property can be subject to a civil penalty.
As it relates to board meetings, Section 718.112, Fla. Stat., was amended to clarify that board members may meet via telephone, real time video conferencing or similar real time electronic or video communication and that such board members may be counted towards a quorum and may also vote as if physically present. Section 718.112, Fla. Stat., was also amended to provide that the members of the board may use email as a means of communication but may not cast a vote on an association matter via email. It is important to note that these changes were not also made in Chapter 720, Fla. Stat., the Homeowners Association Act but only relate to condominium associations. However, we would argue that there is independent authority in the Not-for-Profit Act, Chapter 617, Fla. Stat., to allow a homeowners association board member to attend a board meeting by speakerphone or by other similar telecommunications equipment.
As always, it is important, when new laws are adopted by the legislature, that associations consult with their legal counsel to determine their rights and responsibilities under the new laws, and to make sure that associations are conducting their meetings and keeping their official records in accordance with applicable new legislation.