Question: Our condo association uses an association management company to help us maintain our property and manage the business of the association. They have assigned a community association manager, a licensed CAM, to help us. Sometimes he's very helpful. Other times he refuses to do things as simple as advising us about the timing, method and form for giving a notice of meeting. He says that this is the "unauthorized practice of law." What is he talking about?
Answer: A community association manager, CAM, performs duties that require specialized knowledge, judgment and managerial skills for which they are paid and must be licensed in the state of Florida. They must also complete continuing education requirements to maintain their license.
The Florida Supreme Court issued an "Advisory Opinion" in 1996 to help CAMs and those responsible for community association management understand the statutes that limit a CAM in offering advice. The opinion states, "It is generally understood that the performance of services in representing another before the courts is the practice of law. But the practice of law also includes the giving of legal advice and counsel to others as to their rights and obligations under the law and the preparation of legal instruments, including contracts by which legal rights are either obtained, secured or given away, although such matters may not then or ever be the subject of proceedings in the court."
It is generally understood that a CAM can draft certificates of assessments, notices of dates of election, ballots, written notices meetings, agendas and affidavits of mailing.
A CAM may not, however, complete the Condominium FAQ. The reasoning is that this document is very important during the sales process of a unit and it must be absolutely factual. A CAM may not draft a Claim of Lien, Satisfaction of Claim of Lien and Notice of Commencement form. Although a CAM can draft and deliver meeting notices, he or she is not permitted to determine the timing, method and form because there are important legal implications in the calculation and dissemination of these. A CAM may not answer a board member's question or a resident's inquiry about the application of law to a particular matter being considered or advise a community association that a course of action is within or not within the law.
There are still some actions that a CAM may or may not perform that are in gray areas. For example, depending upon the circumstances, a CAM might be able to draft certain papers, including the documents required to exercise the community association's right of approval or right of first refusal on the sale or lease of a parcel.
A community association manager is licensed to perform the functions of his or her job. Should a CAM perform activities that might be considered the unauthorized practice of law, he or she could lose his or her license and be exposed to far more serious legal action. It is always best to seek the advice of an attorney before asking a CAM to perform duties that have a legal implication.
Attorney Sylvia Heldreth is a certified specialist in real estate law. Her office is located at 1215 Miramar St., in Cape Coral.
This article is not intended as specific legal advice to anyone and is based upon facts that change from time to time. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting upon any matter involving the law.