QUESTION: I'm new to the board of our little condo association. A friend told me that all condo associations must be managed by a licensed community association manager who can handle all the legal issues that arise in day-to-day management. Do we need to hire a manager? I used to work in a law firm and the questions that come up in board meetings seem pretty simple.
ANSWER: There are several parts to your question. A condominium association may manage itself without a manager. If you choose to hire a manager or a management company, certain laws apply. The community association manager, a CAM, must be licensed by the state of Florida. This means he or she must pass a test and complete 20 hours of continuing education, including the Legal Update, during every designated two-year period. The Legal Update contains an overview of any new statutes that apply to community associations that were passed during the legislative sessions of each year of the two year period.
If you "little condo association" is truly small, there is an exception from the licensing rule. The manager does not need to be licensed if an association or associations under a manager are less than 10 units or have a budget of less than $100,000.
The role of the community association manager is very broad but does require knowledge. Some of a CAMs' responsibilities include controlling and disbursing funds, preparing financial documents like budgets, assuring that meetings are properly noticed and conducted, maintaining the association's assets and many other functions.
A CAM is not authorized to practice law. There is some debate about what the unauthorized practice of law really is, but common sense should dictate that a CAM cannot give legal advice, prepare legal instruments or perform the duties commonly provided by an attorney. They should not give opinions about the legal consequences of taking a particular course of action. Neither CAMS nor board members should draft liens or satisfaction of liens.
Directors may not engage in anything that could be considered the unauthorized practice of law. One who does, exposes himself or herself and the association to severe legal penalties. The unauthorized practice of law is a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 for each violation.
Consider having a conversation with your association's legal counsel about the management and legal needs of your association.
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. Individual should seek legal counsel before acting upon any matter involving the law.