Community Associations and the Obligation to Respond to Written Inquiries
By: Rima Suleiman
Condo: It is not unusual for boards/board members to receive a written request from a unit owner seeking answers to questions about various issues. How the association must respond depends on the type of community association and the manner in which the inquiry was received. If the community association is a condominium association then the Florida Condominium Act governs.
Section 718.112, provides that when a unit owner of a residential condominium sends their board a written inquiry by certified mail, the board shall respond in writing to the unit owner within 30 days after receipt of the inquiry. The condominium association board’s response shall either give a substantive response to the inquirer, notify the inquirer that a legal opinion has been requested, or notify the inquirer that advice has been requested from the division. If the condominium association board requests advice from the division, the board shall, within ten days after its receipt of the advice, provide in writing a substantive response to the inquirer. If a legal opinion is requested, the condominium association board shall, within 60 days after the receipt of the inquiry, provide in writing a substantive response to the inquiry. There are penalties if these deadlines are not met. For example, in the event there is a lawsuit concerning the issues asked about, the association would be precluded from recovering its attorney fees—even if it were to prevail in the lawsuit.
However, please note, the condominium association may, through its board, adopt reasonable rules and regulations regarding the frequency and manner of responding to unit owner inquiries.
HOA: Alternatively, if the community association is a homeowners’ association (“HOA”), then the Florida Homeowners’ Association Act governs. This Act contains no such similar provision. This means the HOA has no statutory obligation to respond to a certified inquiry. However, the board may have an obligation to respond pursuant to the HOA’s governing documents and should review them to confirm there is no requirement therein to respond. Even if not legally required to do so, the HOA board should consider seeking advice from legal counsel as to whether it is in the best interest of the association to respond.