CALL NOW! 954-966-3909

LAW OFFICES OF HERB M. MILGRIM, P.A.
JOE DIMAGGIO BUILDING
4040 SHERIDAN STREET
HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA 33021
27
JAN
2011

Broward County Condo Attorney Can Help Defend Owners’ Rights

As a Broward County Condo Attorney with over 20 years in practice I have seen many examples of Associations failing to work with individual owners in order to resolve disputes.   Unfortunately many Board Members refuse to take action to resolve a dispute until they are faced with an attorney’s fee claim from the owner.  The Association will try to stall the claim or point the blame elsewhere until they are faced with an attorney representing the individual owner.

In Florida the most common claims are water damage cases resulting from the Association’s failure to maintain the common elements like a roof or common plumbing.  Other cases that can be difficult for individual owners are pet restriction disputes, interference with an owner’s right to sell or lease, and  harrasment  and mismanagement by the Board Members. A large  number of cases involve Homeowner Associations’ arbitrary use of Architectural Control Committees to deny owner requests for purely personal or aesthetic reasons.

Due to the central location of my office and the means of electronic communication I have been able to assist Condo owners and Homeowners all over Florida with an emphasis  in Palm Beach County, Miami Dade County and Broward County.

Call  a Condo Lawyer that represents owners. The Associations keep expensive law firms on retainer using your money.  Before you let months and years go by trying to deal with the Association on your own try leveling out the playing field with your own experienced Trial Attorney.   Call Now (954) 966-3900!

12
JAN
2011

Dealing with Homeowner’s Association Architectural Review Committees

As a Florida Condo Lawyer that primarily represents condo and homeowners that have disputes with their Associations, I frequently get calls from homeowners that are being threatened by their associations for violations of the Architectural Review Standards.  Some owners have applied for approval prospectively while others have already made the improvements and are now seeking retroactive approval.

While the new Florida Laws for Homeowner Associations may have gotten tougher, the authority of an association or committee to review or approve plans is permitted only to the extent that it is specifically stated in the declaration or other published guidelines or standards authorized by the declaration.  Section 720.3035 specifically addresses architectural control covenants and owners rights with regard to parcel improvements. This Florida law prohibits associations from restricting an owner from selecting from options provided in the declaration  or authorized standards.

If the Association has a restriction on a specific type of building material or modification written into their governing documents they must uniformly restrict the prohibited use or the owner faced with a rejected request for approval may claim Selective Enforcement.  This is a defense that is based upon an estoppel type argument.  Essentially, an Association is prohibited from attempting to enforce a covenant or restriction against one violator, while allowing  another  to continue violating the same restriction.  To put it another way, an Assocation may not arbitrarily enforce an otherwise valid restriction.  The main case dealing with selective enforcement by Florida Condo and Homeowner Associations is the Florida Supreme Court case of   White Egret Condominium, Inc. v. Franklin, 379 So 2d 346 (Fla 1979).    This case originated in Broward County Florida, but because of its importance, made it all the way to the Florida Supreme Court.  The holding, in its simplest form states that an Association may not unequally or arbitrarily enforce an otherwise valid restriction even if the restriction was reasonably related to a lawful objective.

A problem usually arises when the declaration and/or guidelines are silent as to specific options such as color choice or the types of materials to use.  In a published opinion on appeal from a Brevard County Circuit Court ruling, the appellate court held that:

In absence of existing pattern or scheme of type of architecture in particular development which puts prospective purchaser on notice that only one kind of style will be allowed, either in recorded restrictions or de facto from modified building scheme built on subdivision, architecture boards do not have power or discretion to impose only one style over another, based purely on aesthetic concepts.

In the YOUNG case the homeowners desired to build a “flat roof” but the Association preferred the use of a “peaked roof” and refused to approve the owner’s request.  Many other issues have come up over the years. Some owners prefer wood fences over metal, or glass block over window pane, or wood doors over glass.  The bottom line here is that your association can’t refuse your request for ACC approval merely for aesthetic reasons unless there is already an existing pattern or scheme in place to support the use of one material over another.

Many Associations and  ACC committee members use their position of authority to exert their will over other owners.  This usually results in legal battles that can be costly for both the Association and the owners involved.   Don’t try to deal with the Association on your own.   If you are not sure of your rights seek out legal advice from an experienced Trial Attorney that  represents condo owners and homeowners. Your Association keeps expensive Florida Law Firms on Retainer so they can fight you, and they pay these expensive Law Firms with your money. You should not be forced to deal with experienced Property Managers and Attorneys without having someone fighting for you in your corner?

The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A. is a Florida Law Firm that represents Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association.  Herb Milgrim is a tough trial attorney with over 20 years of experience. We provide prospective clients with a Free Case Evaluation. Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action. Call us now (954) 966-3900!

16
DEC
2010

Board Members that Threaten and Intimidate are Interfering with Owners’ Rights To Quiet Use and Enjoyment

As we approach the end of the year many Condominium and Homeowner Associations will be getting ready for their annual meetings. During these meetings the Board usually presents the community with a copy of the Annual Budget and elections are held to elect the members of the board.

If you have been having problems at your Condo or Homeowner Association with harassing board members, threats, intimidation or just bad decision making by your board, now is the time to start campaigning for a new board. In small communities you can simply talk with your neighbors or go door to door to discuss the situation. In larger Associations you may want to prepare a newsletter setting forth the various facts in support of your position that the Association would benefit from a new board.

As a Florida Attorney whose practice primarily involves representing Condo Owners and Home Owners that have disputes with their Associations I have heard many horror stories of Board Members going to extreme lengths to harass and intimidate the owners. I have represented owners that lost tenants because a Board Member repeatedly screamed at them and badmouthed the owner/landlord.  I have heard of Boards agreeing to allow Cellphone Towers on their building without ever taking a vote of membership and presumably getting some type of kickback.  I know of a Board President that owns one unit but resides in another unit rented from the Association at a drastically reduced rent and then goes ahead and does short term rentals of her owned unit at a substantial profit and in violation of the declaration that only allows one renter every 12 months. I have a pile of Association Official Records that were torn up in an attempt to destroy them  at the request of a Board President after a record’s request was made on a matter that was headed for litigation. We would have never found this out if they weren’t dumb enough to throw them in the community trash bin for everyone to see.  I have had disabled clients threatened and intimidated for their right to have an emotional support animal only to find out that the threatening Board Member allowed their own renter to keep a pet in violation of the Association’s no pet policy for renters.

Don’t live in fear of board members whose only justification very being on a board is to bully people and exercise their own unsatisfied lust for power.  Run for the Board youself or help campaign for a new board.  If that doesn’t work and your right to the quiet use and enjoyment of your home is being interfered with it may be time to contact an attorney that represents and fights for Condo Owners.

The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A. is a Florida Law Firm that represents Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association.  Herb Milgrim is a tough trial attorney with over 20 years of experience. We provide prospective clients with a Free Case Evaluation. Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action. Call us now (954) 966-3900!

03
NOV
2010

Waiting to Hire A Florida Condo Attorney May End Up Costing You More In The End

As a Florida Attorney that specializes in representing condo owners and homeowners involved in disputes with their Associations I get  calls each week from owners that simply can’t decide whether they should retain an attorney “now” or wait and see how things go. Many clients simply can’t afford to retain an attorney on an hourly billing basis or they are afraid to spend the money.

I had recently been asked to represent some clients that decided to “wait and see” before hiring me.  During that time they were sued by their association.  They didn’t properly respond to the lawsuit or show up for court dates hoping the matter would simply go away by itself. Unfortunately, they waived valuable defenses and in the process of not showing up for Court dates they made the Judge angry and unsympathetic to their claim.

Eventually when things got so out of control that they were faced with being held in contempt of court and the possibility of facing a bench warrant for their arrest they decided to finally hire me.  While I was able to diffuse the situation and keep them from facing the most severe sanctions by the Court they wound up spending a lot of money for me to simply do some damage control.  If they would have hired me early on in the case we could have taken the offensive and would have been in a position to recover damages from the Association as well as Prevailing Party Attorney Fees.  Instead they had to pay for my time as well as for the Association Attorneys.

Remember the Association uses your money to pay their attorneys to fight you. Don’t think that you can be successful fighting experienced professionals without proper legal representation.

If you are faced with a claim by your Association here are some helpful tips:

  • Document everything in writing with confirming letters of anything that is promised or said;
  • secure all evidence by taking photographs or hiring competent experts;
  • if you are served with a lawsuit you have 20 days to file a motion to dismiss or serve your defenses;
  • most defenses are permanently waived if not asserted in your timely answer to the association complaint;
  • once you have been served by the Sheriff or Process Server the Association lawyers can simply mail you copies of important court filings like motions, discovery requests, hearing notices and deposition notices;
  • make sure to check your mail regularly for such filings and read them carefully so as not to miss any important deadlines or required court appearances.

The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A. is a Florida Law Firm that specializes in representing Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association. Herb Milgrim is a tough trial attorney with over 20 years of experience. We provide prospective clients with a Free Case Evaluation. Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action.

14
OCT
2010

Condo Pet Restrictions and Service Animals

As a Florida Attorney that represents Condo Owners and Homeowners that have disputes with their Associations I hear many stories of  about how owners have been damaged by the actions or inactions of their Associations.  I usually only hear the bad.  As an experienced Trial Attorney I know that it is my job to listen to other people’s problems and then find a solution by applying the law to the facts at hand to help people solve their problem. Although  it gives me great satisfaction to help these people resolve their problems,  I am always writing about the disputes and rarely do I get the opportunity to share something truly heartwarming with my readers.  That is why, when I read the story about 11 year old Billy Ma and his Service Dog Polar I had to share it with you.

The story is truly heartwarming and  you should all read the entire story by clicking the link above or by going to http://www.pawnation.com/.   The story focuses on a young boy suffering from a severe type of Muscular Dystrophy. His name is Billy Ma and he is 11 years old.  Billy had been waiting to pick out his Service Dog for almost 2 years.  He finally got the call and traveled from Ohio to Atlanta where these wonderful service dogs are trained. It is an amazing process how these animals begin their training when they are just days old.

The most touching part is that it really isn’t the human picking the dog but the other way around.  Even though the Facility reviews medical records and patient profiles to help with the matching process, once the dogs meet their candidates  it is usually the dog that selects the candidate that it will spend the rest of its life with.  Billy’s form of Muscular Dystrophy required him to take steroids which stunted his growth.  Because the disease wasted away his muscles  it has become very difficult for him to hold himself up when walking.  As a result he falls alot so it was especially touching that the largest of the dogs took a liking to the smallest of boys.  The 18 month old lab/retriever mix named Polar immediately focused on Billy during the matching process. The other dogs simply paced around his wheelchair. Normally the trainers would not suggest such a large dog for such a small boy. However, it is Polars size that truly helps him to be of service to Billy. Polar  will wear a harness with handles and because of the dog’s large size Billy will be able to grab onto the harness in order to keep his balance.  With Polar’s help Billy will be able to continue to walk on his own.

Billy Ma was placed on a priority list to be matched with his dog. Unfortunately others wait almost 5 years for their service dogs.  It would truly be a crime if an Association refused to make reasonable accomodations for a dog like Polar claiming some type of absurd pet restriction. Unfortunately most Associations and Property Managers fail to understand that Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals are not subject to Association Pet Restrictions.  Any attempt by an Association to force an owner to get rid of such an animal would be a clear violation of  both State and Federal Fair Housing Laws.

If you or somebody you love has a service animal or emoptional support animal and your Association has not made reasonable accomodations for you or worse is trying to enforce Pet Restrictions that don’t apply to your animal,  you need to contact us to discuss your rights. In most cases you could be entitled to Compensatory Damages as wells as reimbursement of your Attorney’s Fees and expenses.

The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A. is a Florida Law Firm that specializes in representing Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association.  Don’t try to deal with the matter on your own. Seek out legal advice from an experienced Trial Attorney that specializes in representing condo owners. Your Association keeps expensive Florida Law Firms on Retainer so they can fight and delay your claim, and they pay these expensive Law Firms with your money. Contact us now to get a free case evaluation.

17
AUG
2010

Hiring a Florida Condo Lawyer

In Florida many condo owners and homeowners have problems with their Associations and other owners but aren’t sure if they should hire a lawyer. This post is designed to assist condo owners and homeowners in making that decision.

Florida condo owners and homeowners are routinely faced with many problems related to condominium law, the Florida Condominium Act, HOA issues, disaster recovery, hurricane claims, water and mold damage damage due to association’s failure to maintain common elements, injury claims in common areas, covenant enforcement, illegal budget increases, selective enforcement claims, improper leasing restrictions, tortious interference with owner’s right to sell or rent, pet restrictions, interference with an owner’s quiet use and enjoyment, noise complaints, harassment by board members and property management, architectural review claims, and improper use of funds by board members, just to name a few.

It is important to understand that Condo Associations and Homeowner Associations in Florida keep expensive attorneys on retainer using your maintenance dues. While you may be able to resolve some matters by yourself  it is difficult for an individual owner to deal with stubborn board members or slick defense attorneys without legal representation of their own.  If your matter is serious it may be necessary for you to retain an experienced trial attorney to help you resolve the problem in the most efficient manner. It is important that the Florida Attorney you decide to hire specializes in representing owners in their claims against their associations. Many condo attorneys in South Florida say they represent owners when the majority of their work is for Associations. As a Trial Attorney with over 20 years of experience I choose not represent Associations.  I only represent individuals. Half of my practice involves representing condo owners and homeowners resolve their disputes against their associations and the other half of my practice involves representing individuals that have been seriously injured as a result of someone else’s negligence. I have been approached by Associations but decided long ago not to represent them in order to keep the battle lines clear.

If you decide to hire an attorney to represent you in your dispute against your association here are some things to consider. Almost all cases are handled on an hourly basis. What that means is that you pay the attorney for all of his or her time spent dealing with your case. The attorney should keep accurate time records showing what they did and how much time they spent doing it. You will most likely have to provide the attorney with an amount to be kept in Trust as a Retainer. Some attorneys will make the retainer non-refundable while others allow it to be refundable. The attorney should send you a monthly statement itemizing his time and charges. Usually you will be asked to replenish the retainer which is like a security deposit for a month of the attorney’s time.

If your case is going to involve litigation the attorney’s time will be significantly greater. It is important to be totally up front with your attorney about the facts and circumstances surrounding your case so that he can help you decide on the best course of action. If your attorney successfully resolves your case against the association you may be entitled to reimbursement for your attorney’s fees and costs from the association.

The Law Offices of Herb Milgrim, P.A. has over 20 years of extensive legal experience. We serve the legal needs of individual Condominium owners, Home owners and Cooperative owners in resolving disputes with their Associations throughout Broward, Dade and Palm Beach Counties, including Hollywood, Davie, Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines, Hallandale, Sunny Isles, Aventura, North Miami, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach with two convenient office locations in Hollywood Florida and Boca Raton Florida.

We provide prospective clients with a Free Case Evaluation. Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action.

Call us now at 954-966-3900.

22
JUL
2010

Should I Sue My Condo Association?

I have handled many cases in Florida  for condo owners,  homeowners and co-op owners that have claims against their associations.  These cases are all handled on an hourly billing basis.  Some cases settle with a strongly worded letter but others require a series of letters and  litigation.  This can get expensive for the condo or homeowner with limited resources.  Unfortunately,  associations pay their lawyers with dues that come from the other owners. In other cases the association law firm is being paid by the insurance company.  While the association resources are not unlimited they  can fight longer than the individual owner.  A good attorney that specializes in representing owners should always try  to convince the association that  they should resolve the case amicably because the longer they fight the more they will ultimately pay.  Many association Boards have been voted down after advising the owners that they paid out thousands of dollars after losing an owner lawsuit.

I caution my clients that even though we always try to resolve these matters quickly they need to be prepared for a fight.   I rarely pursue litigation against Condo or Homeowner Associations unless we have a winnable case.  In roof leak or water damage  claims based upon the Condo Association’s failure to maintain the common elements,  the condo association has a non-delegable duty and has very few defenses to our case.  Likewise in dealing with pet restriction cases where the association’s discriminatory practices have failed to make reasonable accommodations under the Fair Housing Act the assocation is exposed to compensatory and punitive damages along with paying my client’s attorney fees.  Despite this there are many condo and homeowner associations in south florida that either fail to seek out proper legal advice or simply ignore the relevant facts and applicable laws.  As a result many cases that should be resolved quickly take much longer than expected.  While these cases usually result in the association paying out a larger sum for damages and attorney fees, the delay often puts additional stress on the client both mentally and financially.  Condo owners and homeowners contemplating litigation against their associations need to be prepared for this before filing suit against their association.  The worst thing is for the client to exhaust their resources and fail to follow through on a winnable case.

The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A. is a Florida Law Firm that specializes in representing Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association.   We provide prospective clients with a Free Case Evaluation. Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action.

Remember that the Associations keep expensive Law Firms on retainer using your money. Before you try and fight the Association you should contact us to get a free case evaluation.  We serve the legal needs of condo owners, homeowners and co-op owners throughout Broward, Dade and Palm Beach Counties, including Hollywood, Davie, Pembroke Pines, Hallandale, Sunny Isles, Aventura, North Miami, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach with two convenient office locations in Hollywood Florida and Boca Raton Florida.  Call us now at 954-966-3900.

05
JUL
2010

Condo Lawyer Discusses Owners’ Rights

Condo owners, homeowners and co-op owners in Florida all have the right to the quiet use and enjoyment of their homes.

How many of you hosted a party or attended a party this Holiday Weekend? Probably a good majority of you did. There may have been music, loud guests and maybe even some fireworks. For those of you that didn’t do either, were you affected by those that did? Did any of you have to call security about noise complaints or guests parking in your spots?

All of these questions have to do with an owner’s right to quiet use and enjoyment. As a Florida Condo Owner, Homeowner or Co-op Owner you all have the right to the quiet use and enjoyment of your home. Does  that mean you should immediately call security or even the police if somebody else is making noise? Remember that most of us living in South Florida reside in a community run by an Association. Obviously Condominiums are the most extreme because we are all stacked up on top of one another. But even single family homes in planned communities face these issues. Most single family homes are built on zero lot lines putting us on top of our neighbors. The point is whether you live in a high rise condominium building, townhouse or single family home, unless you live out in the woods, you need to be considerate of your neighbors and tolerant.

The right to quiet use and enjoyment can involve many different things. I have represented condo owners in Aventura Florida that were affected by the “clickety clack” of the owners above them because the Association was selectively enforcing a rule that required special sound proofing for owners desiring to install wood or marble flooring in high rise buildings. I resolved  a claim against a Hollywood Florida Condo Association because the rooftop generator was not properly insulated and was making so much noise that the residents could not sleep at night. I represented a townhouse owner in Boca Raton and brought a claim against the Homeowners’ Association claiming they failed to maintain the common elements after a townhouse sale was approved to a young college student who proceeded to have parties every night with loud college students in a quiet residential community. The problem was that the Association did not do all it could to stop the college parties from going on after hours. The Association needed to bring the offending owner to grievence and file for injunctive relief if that was not successful. Ultimately the Assocation forced the offending owners to sell but not before compensating my client for her inconvenience and reimbursing her for my attorney’s fees and expenses.

Since we have just finished a holiday weekend I chose to write about loud parties. If you are having a party with many guests direct them where to park or arrange ahead of time for valet parking. Nobody wants to come home from a long day at work and find cars parked on their lawn or in their assigned parking space. Likewise, if you are the one affected, don’t call security after the first problem. Try talking with your neighbors instead.

One of the best examples I can give you is this. I live in a community of single family homes.  Our community is on the water so land is at a premium. Most homes are large but on zero lot lines so when you are  in your back yard you can hear others nearby. One day we all received a letter that was placed in our mailboxes. It was from  2 teenage brothers who live around the corner. They advised they were graduating high school and were planning on having a party. They wrote that they were inviting friends over and would be playing  music and that it might get loud. They invited any of us to let them know ahead of time if that would be a problem or, if things got too loud during the party, to simply give them a call and let them know rather than calling security or the police. They indicated that there would just be a bunch of high school kids letting off some steam after a long school year. That night I let my dogs out  a little after midnight and I heard their party. There was loud music like they had warned and I could hear young teenagers acting in a very loud and boisterous manner. If I had not been warned ahead of time I would have said to myself that they were being rude and inconsiderate. Because of their letter, however, I simply smiled and said to myself how nice it must be to be a teenager. In fact, the party went off without anybody complaining despite the fact that it was very loud and went on well after midnight on a tuesday night.

We can all take a lesson from these 2 teenage boys.  We need to be considerate of our neighbors but also tolerant of each other. If you can’t then you should not live in a condominium or planned community. Get a cabin out in the woods were you won’t bother anybody and nobody will bother you.

If you have been considerate and tolerant of your neighbors and despite this they continue to interfere with your right to quiet use and enjoyment and your association has failed to get them to correct the problem then you need  to consult with a Florida Condo Lawyer that specializes in representing owners. There are many attorneys in Florida that specialize in condo law but most of them represent Associations and will only take your case if there is no conflict of interest with the Associations they represent. Wouldn’t you rather hire an experienced Trial Attorney that specializes in represnting owners?

The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A,  is a Florida Law Firm that specializes in representing  Homeowners, Condo Owners and Co-op Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association.  We provide prospective clients with a Free Case Evaluation. Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action.

Remember that the Associations keep expensive Law Firms on retainer using your money. Before you try and fight the Association you should contact us to get a free case evaluationCall us now at 954-966-3900.

02
JUL
2010

Why do you need a Condo Owner’s Attorney?

Many  Condominium Owners, Homeowners and Co-op Owners living in Florida have problems with their associations. Whether it is due to water damage or mold damage from the association’s failure to maintain,  hurricane claims, personal injury claims in common areas, covenant enforcement,  illegal budget increases, selective enforcement, improper leasing restrictions, tortious interference with owner’s right to sell or rent, pet restrictions, interference with an owner’s quiet use and enjoyment, noise complaints, harrasment by board members and property management, architectural review claims, or improper use of funds by board members, I am sure all of you have tried to deal with your Association Board or Property Manager directly.  While some  of you have resolved your matter quickly, I am sure most of you have received the run around from the Association only to see several months or maybe even years go by with no resolution in sight.

It is important to remember that your Association has expensive Law Firms on Retainer to advise them on how to fight your claim, and they pay these expensive Law Firms with your money. Why should you be forced to deal with experienced Property Managers and Attorneys without having someone fighting for you in your corner? You need an attorney that represents the individual owners not the Associations.

Don’t make the mistake of hiring one of the many Florida lawyers that claim they represent owners when the majority of their clients are Associations.  We do not represent Associations.  We have been approached by Associations in the past to keep us on retainer but, as a matter of principal and to keep the lines clear, we choose not to represent Associations.

The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A. is a Florida Law Firm that specializes in representing Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association.  We provide prospective clients with a Free Case Evaluation. Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action.

Remember that the Associations keep expensive Law Firms on retainer using your money. Before you try and fight the Association you should contact us to get a free case evaluationCall us now at 954-966-3900.

30
JUN
2010

CONDO ASSOCIATION PET RESTRICTIONS (part 3 of 3)

The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A. is a Florida Law Firm that specializes in representing Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association.  We provide prospective clients with a Free Case Evaluation. Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action.

World’s Friendliest Dog

This is the 3d  part of a 3 part series of articles discussing what condo owners can do when their association tells them they need to get rid of their pet. In part 1 we discussed what you should do if your pet is actually a “service animal” and in part 2 we discussed “emotional support animals.” This third installment discusses the best course of action when your animal is simply your beloved pet.

The best course of action may be to ask your Association Board for  a “hardship exemption” if you already own the dog. It is best to do this in writing and include letters from other owners that your dog is well behaved and not a threat to the community.

If the Association has adopted the no pet rule after you have acquired your pet you should be protected by a grandfather clause. What this means is that the Condo Association cannot apply their rules and regulations retroactively.  If the rule was enacted before you acquired your pet you can have a Florida Condo Lawyer look into whether the pet restriction was properly recorded and filed with the county where the association is located.   If the pet restriction was not properly recorded it may not be legally enforceable. Likewise, if the pet restriction was only adopted by the board as a Rule, and  should have been voted on by all the owners as an amendment to the governing documents, this may play a role in whether it is enforceable.

Lastly, you may be able to raise several defenses to enforcement of the pet restriction. Under Florida Case Law an Association may not arbitrarily enforce an otherwise valid restriction.  A Condominium Association attempting to enforce a covenant or restriction against one violator, while allowing another to continue violating the same restriction, constitutes  selective enforcement that would be contradictory to the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. In the case of  Prisco v. Forest Villas Condominium Apartments, Inc.,  847 So.2d 1012 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003), a Broward County Judge was reversed when he granted a summary judgment in favor of the association in their action seeking an injunction barring  a resident from keeping a dog on the premises. The Appellate Court held that a Condominium Association that allowed cats, but not dogs, despite prohibition in the condo declaration against pets other than fish or birds, selectively enforced its declaration, and thus the resident  who was prohibited from keeping her dog  was entitled to the defense of selective enforcement.

While the selective enforcement defense is derived from the defense of estoppel there is another defense that could be available to owners that have kept their pet for  a sufficient length of time before the association attempts to enforce it’s pet restriction. The defense of laches  is applicable when the association’s inequitable conduct, lack of diligence, delay, and inattention to pursuing enforcement of the pet restriction occurs.  What this means is that if you walk your dog past a board member every day for a year and then all of the sudden you get a letter seeking to enforce the pet restriction you may be entitled to raise the defense of laches to overcome enforcement of the pet restriction.

Remember that the Associations keep expensive Law Firms on retainer using your money. Before you try and fight the Association you should contact us to get a free case evaluation. If you retain us we will advise you on the best course of action for you to proceed in successfully fighting the association’s pet restrictions. Call us now at 954-966-3900.