Sometimes a condominium association needs to enter an owner’s unit, which is why Florida’s Condominium Act gives associations an irrevocable right of access. This right of access may only be used during reasonable hours to perform needed maintenance and repairs or to prevent damage to the common elements or to other units. However, Florida’s Condominium Act was amended on July 1, 2014 to expand an association’s right to access units that have been abandoned.
Under the new law, an association may enter an abandoned unit to:
- Inspect a unit and adjoining common elements;
- Make necessary repairs to a unit or to the common elements serving the unit;
- Repair a unit if there is mold or deterioration;
- Turn on utilities for a unit; or
- Otherwise maintain, preserve or protect a unit and adjoining common elements.
When is a unit considered abandoned? Unless a unit owner provides the association with written notice to the contrary, a unit is presumed to be abandoned if:
- The unit is the subject of a foreclosure action and no tenant appears to have resided in the unit for at least 4 continuous weeks; or
- No tenant appears to have resided in the unit for 2 consecutive months, and the association is unable to contact or determine the whereabouts of the owner after reasonable inquiry.
Except in cases of emergency, an association must wait 2 days after giving the owner notice of its intent to enter the abandoned unit. This notice must be mailed or hand-delivered to the owner’s address of record and may be given electronically if the unit owner previously consented to receive electronic notices from the association.
Any expenses incurred by the association can be charged to the unit owner, and if a unit owner fails to pay, the association may use its lien authority to collect. An association may also ask a court to appoint a receiver to lease out an abandoned unit so that the rental income can be used to offset the association’s costs and expenses of maintaining, preserving and protecting the unit and the adjoining common elements, which can include:
- The costs of receivership
- Unpaid assessments
- Administrative late fees and costs
- Reasonable attorney fees
This expanded right of access to abandoned units applies even if the condominium documents, such as the bylaws or declaration, do not provide the authority to do so. Under the new law, the decision to enter an abandoned unit is at the association’s sole discretion. Nevertheless, associations should proceed cautiously to make sure all formalities are observed and to minimize the risk of a lawsuit by the unit owner.
Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk’s Condominium Program provides clients with access to various risk management services, such as Setnor Byer’s Risk Management Group and Unit Owners’ Report Line, as well as our affiliate’s online Board Member Education, which has been approved by the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes to satisfy Florida’s new board member education training.
If you would like to discuss how Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk can serve you and your association, please contact us.