Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
by Eric Glazer
As a community association condominium lawyer, I have solved some unique problems and have been involved with some unusual unit owners and board members over the years, but this past month takes the cake as the wackiest month of all.
It all started when a longtime condominium association client informed me that one of its neighbors had snapped and was threatening all of the unit owners with physical violence, was threatening to burn down the building and was seen deliberately damaging common area furniture by stabbing it repeatedly with a knife. The condo president informed me that the police couldn't help because the threats were not made in the presence of a police officer, nor did a police officer witness the destruction of the property.
I learned rather quickly that the Florida Baker Act would provide some protection to the unit owners. Approximately 20 unit owners signed affidavits indicating that they believed their lives and property were in danger. The affidavits and a complaint were filed in the Circuit Court of Miami-Dade County, and a judge issued an order requiring that the unit owner be picked up against his will, psychologically examined and subsequently detained until such time it was determined he was no longer a threat. Ironically, the unit owner's family called me to thank me for helping their family member finally get the help that was so badly needed.
Be advised that this is a drastic remedy than can be utilized only in extreme circumstances. It is not intended to lock up your board president who wishes to repaint the lobby for the third time in a year, or who is convinced that annual elections are not longer necessary.
It that weren't enough, I am writing this article less than 24 hours after attending a board meeting where a female board member and a male unit owner began a fist fight, requiring a police officer to physically restrain the both of them. I should have know there would be trouble when someone asked the police a few days in advance to attend the board meeting. The fight revolved around certain inconsistencies in the election process. A serious issue, but certainly not something to get a heart attack over, or even a black eye.
A hostile relationship between the board and the residents can only be a negative for the community. Too often, unit owners forget that when they chose to live in a condominium, they voluntarily relinquished their right to live entirely as they choose. They forget that rules and regulations exist that dictate not only the appearance of their property but also their personal conduct and habits. By the same token, too often board members forget about their fiduciary duty owed to each unit owner. They forget also that their jobs as officers and directors are highly regulated by very specific Florida Statutes and codes and that Florida law provides numerous rights to the unit owners. The most successful condominiums both enforce their rules and allow their unit owners to contribute. This can be accomplished by letting unit owners have their say at meetings and by having them serve on various committees. The least successful condominiums have fist fights and exchanges of profanity at board meetings that usually last several hours too long and accomplish little if any objectives.
CONDO QUIZ COLUMN
At Red Roof Condominium, Rudy Rascal, the condo president, is a big contributor to the Republican Party. His arch enemy at the condominium is David Driscoll, a longtime member of the Democratic Party. Driscoll is lucky enough to have a commitment from Vice President Al Gore to speak to the unit owners of Red Roof two months from now. Driscoll immediately notifies Rascal that he wants access to the condominium's meeting room so that Gore can speak to the Condo's residents. Of course, Rascal says no. Can Rudy Rascal prevent Dave Driscoll from access to the room?
No. Pursuant to Florida Statute 718.123, no entity or entities shall unreasonably restrict any unit owner's right to either peacefully assemble or invite public officers or candidates for public office to appear and speak in common elements, common area, and recreational facilities.
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For more information you may contact Glazer & Associates, P.A. at One Emerald Place 3113 Stirling Road Suite 201 Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33312. Telephone: (954) 983-1112.