QUESTION: My husband and I are very private people and we live in a quiet development that has a condominium association. I heard neighbors at the pool talking about the power that our board will have if our property is damaged by a big storm. They said that the board can even make us leave our own homes! Can that be right?
ANSWER: Unless the emergency powers that you are referring to are specifically prohibited by your condominium documents, the board does have powers to act in an emergency that a board would not normally have. For example, they have the authority to require the evacuation of the condominium property in the event of a mandatory evacuation order for the local area. Based upon the advice of emergency management officials or other licensed professionals, they have the power to determine whether the property can be safely inhabited. So, yes, they do have the power in an emergency to make you leave and not let you return.
They have several additional powers in an emergency that you may not find as surprising. They can cancel and reschedule association meetings and conduct board meetings with notice that is "practical" and may not adhere to the usual guidelines for posting a board meeting notice.
All of these powers, however, are based upon the declaration of a true emergency by an appropriate authority, such as the governor of the state of Florida. An "emergency" is any occurrence, or threat thereof, whether natural, technological or manmade, in war or in peace, which results or may result in substantial injury or harm to the population or substantial damage to or loss of property. The restrictions about what does or does not constitute an "emergency" are found in the statutes, specifically Statute 252.36. This statute gives the governor the same unusual authority to act that the declaration of an emergency gives a condominium board.
The purpose of this temporary power is not to invade a person's privacy or force them to leave their home. The goal is to protect the residents and the assets of the association by eliminating rules and procedures that are normally useful but could add to the danger and damage in a true emergency.
An attorney can help you better understand the powers that a board can use in an emergency.
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.