Owners who rent units may use association property as rules allow

Question: Florida law states that, when owners rent their units, they are not allowed to leave their cars on the property. We live in a condo complex with 148 units. The parking chairman is allowing a unit owner to pay $185 for a second parking space so that he can leave his car while he rents his unit, instead of removing his car from the property. What can we do about it? — D.B.

Answer: I am not aware of any law that literally prohibits owners from keeping their cars in a community while they rent. Instead, I think that you are referring to Section 718.106 of the Condo Act, which states that, when a unit is leased, a tenant has all use rights to the association property and those common elements otherwise readily available for use by unit owners, and that the unit owner has no rights except as a guest, unless such rights to use certain areas of the property are waived in writing by the tenant.

As a practical matter, this would mean that, if a particular unit has the use of two appurtenant limited common element parking spaces, a renter would be entitled to use both of those spaces, unless the lease provides otherwise. A condominium association is further entitled to adopt rules to prohibit dual usage of the association property by a unit owner and a tenant.

As you can see, this law is not a flat ban on an owner parking in the community. If your association’s covenants and rules would allow a guest to rent a parking spot, or if they specifically allow nonresident owners to rent parking spaces, the use of the parking space by the owner would probably not violate the statute. It would depend largely on the language in your declaration and what types of rules and regulations regarding parking have been promulgated by the board; as well as whether the lease specifies that the owner has the right to use certain elements of the property.

Q: I am hoping that you can clear up a provision in our documents that does not seem to have any definition. My community has five associations under the umbrella of a master association, whose board members are selected from the five separate subassociation boards to sit on the master board. Our documents state that material alterations to any element of the master association property must be approved by the “residents limited voting rights.”

Can you please explain what that means? I have looked up that expression in law and other dictionaries, as well as the Florida statutes, without finding any definition. Please unravel this confusing term. — L.B.

A: You are having difficulty finding a definition of the term “residents limited voting rights” because it is not a standard term with any standard definition. The only place this term would be defined would be within the governing documents, themselves.

My recommendation would be to find someone with software that will allow you to scan all of the master association documents into searchable PDF files, and then search for the term to see how it is used. As I have discussed in previous columns, in many master associations, voting is exercised through voting members who represent all of the votes held by a subcommunity. It would not surprise me if your residents votes are cast by a voting member, who may in fact be the director appointed to the master board. If this is the case, the five voting members will vote on the material alteration at a membership meeting, although the members at large (the owners) will not actually cast a vote — their vote will be represented through the vote of their voting member. The only way to influence the vote, then, would be to convince your master representative not to vote for the alteration on your behalf.

It is also conceivable that “residents limited voting rights” refers to limited situations where residents do vote directly on important issues, such as the amendment of documents or material alterations. But, as before, the only way to know would be to scour the governing documents. If you are having trouble with their interpretation, it may be worthwhile to hire an attorney to assist.

Ryan Poliakoff is a co-author of “New Neighborhoods — The Consumer’s Guide to Condominium, Co-Op and HOA Living” and a partner at Backer Aboud Poliakoff & Foelster, LLP. Email questions to condocolumn@gmail.com. Please include your hometown.

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