Condominium Common Areas or Personal Property When Damage Occurs?

Posted by John Sabia on Saturday, July 26th, 2008 at 11:45pm.

A Question of Outside Condo Property Taken to Court

Las Olas River House BalconyThe hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 were difficult on the state of Florida, but since then there has been an issue between Florida condo boards, unit owners, insurance companies, and the state that has made the hurricanes even more difficult to deal with. What's the deal? The outside property belonging to any one condo unit in South Florida.

If a hurricane destroys things such as a condo's hot tub, grill, lounge chairs, and Jacuzzis, who has to pay to repair or replace them? This has been an issue of debate since the hurricanes came to the state and ravaged many of these items. The issue was first raised when two years ago the Department of Business & Professional Regulation decided that condominium associations were liable for the damages if the property outside of a condo unit was damaged and these rulings became effective across the state.

This issue was brought to the forefront when a Florida condo association in Doral was receiving numerous requests from owners to have their items replaced or repaired that were damaged while in a condo common area. Problems ensued because everyone including the unit owners, the condominium association, and the insurance companies were all being given different information.

The association did not want to have to pay more than $1.5 million a year in insurance costs, so they brought the matter to the department and asked them to interpret the state law. The department ruled against the association, which appealed.

On July 2, 2008 the 3rd District Court of Appeal called into question this matter again when they decided that the rulings mentioned above were "utterly unfair." The court was under the impression that everyone shouldn't have to pay for the property of one. This court ruling backs a law that was signed on June 30th by Governor Charlie Crist. The problem is that many people say that the law, CS, SB 601, isn't clear enough and it may not even be enforceable.

A spokesperson for the department stated that it will ask the 3rd District Court of Appeal to hear the case again. This is a sign that the Department of Business & Professional Regulation is not happy with the new law and wants to appeal it. If the law is appealed, this issue could be brought to the Florida Supreme Court to be heard. It is not yet known if the new law signed by the governor will be enforceable or upheld.

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John Sabia

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