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LEXINGTON PLACE CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, INC., A FLORIDA CORPORATION NOT FOR PROFIT vs MICHELLE FLINT AND KEVIN FLINT
Case Number: 21-2644
James A. Edwards
Jay P. Cohen
Brian D. Lambert
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA
On Appeal From The Circuit Court
for Orange County
Reginald K. Whitehead
James E. Olsen, of The Law Offices of John L. Di Masi
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Daytona Beach, Florida - Real Estate lawyer represented Appellees with challenging to the material alterations and new rules enacted by Appellant.
Without conducting a vote of the owners, Appellant, Lexington Place
Condominium Association, Inc. (“Association”), through its Board of
Directors (“Board”), made material alterations to the common elements by
eliminating an existing dog park and a wallyball court. The Board also
enacted a new rule restricting tenants’ rights to have pets that conflicted with
an express provision of the Declaration of Condominium (“Declaration”).
Appellees, Michelle and Kevin Flint (“Flints”), own several units at Lexington
Place, and their challenge to the material alterations and new rule was
successful during non-binding arbitration. The Association sought review of
the arbitration decision by pursuing a trial de novo in circuit court. The circuit
court ruled in favor of the Flints and affirmed the arbitration award. We agree
with the arbitrator and trial court that the Board ignored clearly relevant and
controlling provisions of the Declaration. The Board lacked authority to make
the material alterations to common elements or enact the new restrictive pet
rule absent sufficiently favorable votes of the unit owners. Accordingly, for
the reasons set forth below, we affirm the final summary judgment the trial
court entered in favor of the Flints, and we grant their motion for appellate
Following the Association and its Board’s actions, the Flints promptly
filed a Petition for Mandatory Non-Binding Arbitration with the Department of
Business and Professional Regulation Division of Florida Condominiums,
Timeshares and Mobile Homes (“DBPR”) against the Association, alleging,
inter alia, that the Association in 2019 had violated its governing documents
by removing two common elements, the dog park and wallyball court,1
without a vote of the unit owners. In February 2020, the DBPR arbitrator
filed his Summary Final Order, which ruled in favor of the Flints. The
Association filed a Motion for Rehearing And/Or Motion for Clarification,
which was denied by the arbitrator. The Association then filed a complaint
for trial de novo in circuit court in which it repeated the same arguments
made to the arbitrator. The circuit court ruled in favor of the Flints and
affirmed the arbitrator’s decision.
From arbitration through appeal, the Association has argued that they
were authorized to eliminate the dog park and wallyball court by Article 8 of
the Declaration which states:
8. Additions, Alterations, or Improvements by the Association.
Whenever in the judgment of the Board of Directors, the
Common Elements, the Association Property, or any part of
1 Wallyball is volleyball played on a racquetball court where the players
can hit the ball off of the walls. As noted by the Association, the removal of
the wallyball court here involved removing the volleyball net from the
racquetball court so the court could be used to play racquetball.
either, shall require capital additions, alterations or
improvements (as distinguished from repairs and replacements)
costing in excess of $100,000 in the aggregate in any calendar
year, the Association may proceed with such additions,
alterations or improvements only if the making of such additions,
alterations or improvements shall have been approved by a
majority of the Unit Owners represented at a meeting at which a
quorum is attained.
On the other hand, the Flints have consistently argued that the Association
and its Board’s power to make material alterations to common elements was
governed and restricted by Section 6.4 which states:
6.4 Material Alterations or Substantial Additions. The
Association shall not make any material alterations or substantial
additions to the Common Elements or to real property which is
Association Property, without the approval of a majority of the
voting interests of the Unit Owners.
“Except as otherwise provided in this section, there shall be no
material alteration or substantial additions to the common elements or to real
property which is association property, except in a manner provided in the
declaration as originally recorded or as amended under the procedures
provided therein.” § 718.113(2)(a), Fla. Stat. (2019). “A declaration of
condominium is ‘the condominium’s constitution.’” Beachwood Villas Condo.
v. Poor, 448 So. 2d 1143, 1145 (Fla. 4th DCA 1984) (quoting Schmidt v.
Sherrill, 442 So. 2d 963, 965 (Fla. 4th DCA 1984)).
The terms “material alteration” or “materially alter” in condominium
declarations, when not otherwise defined, mean “to palpably or perceptively
vary or change the form, shape, elements, or specifications of a building [or
common element] . . . in such a manner as to appreciably affect or influence
its function, use, or appearance.” Sterling Vill. Condo., Inc. v. Breitenbach,
251 So. 2d 685, 687 (Fla. 4th DCA 1971); see also Tower House Condo.,
Inc. v. Millman, 410 So. 2d 926, 928 (Fla. 3d DCA 1981). It is indisputable
that elimination of the dog park and wallyball court were material alterations
of then-existing common elements.
While Article 8 of the Declaration gives the Association and its Board
certain authority to deal with day-to-day matters, subject to an annual dollar
limit, it does not mention “material alterations.” The Association’s reliance
upon Lenzi v. Regency Tower Ass’n, 250 So. 3d 103 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018), is
misplaced. Regency Tower’s declaration explicitly authorized its board of
directors to make material alterations to common elements with no
requirement of owner approval, while the Association’s Declaration,
specifically Section 6.4, explicitly requires a majority vote of owners prior to
the material alteration of any common element. Thus, under the
circumstances present here, the Association and its Board lacked authority
to eliminate the dog park and wallyball court in the absence of the majority
of owners voting their approval.
Rule Restricting Pet Ownership by Tenants
In their DBPR petition, the Flints also successfully challenged the
Association and its Board’s 2019 adoption of Rule IX which states:
IX. PET RESTRICTIONS
Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 17.4 of [the
Declaration]. Tenant(s) or Occupant(s) are not permitted to
maintain household pets in a Unit. Section 17.4 of [the
Declaration] permits “Unit Owners” to maintain pets within a Unit,
and subjects only ‘Unit Owners” [sic] for the fines and penalties
for violations of Section 17.4.
Any pets residing in units with a Tenant(s) or Occupant(s) at the
time and date these rules are adopted, are considered
“grandfathered” and not subject to the Pet restrictions herein.
Existing pets are grandfathered in as to that specific pet. The
right to a pet is not grandfathered. If the specific pet ceases living,
a new pet is not permitted.
The Flints argued that Rule IX amounted to an unauthorized
amendment of the Association’s Declaration, specifically Section 17.4, which
provides in pertinent part:
17.4 Pets. No more than two (2) housed pets (as may be defined
and re-defined by the Association) shall be maintained in any
Unit or and Limited Common Element appurtenant thereto.
Section 17.4 also restricted the maximum total weight of pets to an aggregate
of eighty pounds, prohibited any commercial activity involving pets, and
provided for removal of pets that were dangerous, noisy, or otherwise a
nuisance. Section 17.4 did not distinguish between owners versus tenants
or other occupants when it came to pets.2
The Association and its Board’s adoption of Rule IX amounted to an
attempt to amend the existing pet ownership rights set forth in Section 17.4.
Article 6 of the Declaration governs amendments to the Declaration and
includes two separate provisions: one for amendments done by the
association and one for amendments done by the Board. Under Section 6.1,
two-thirds of the voting interests of the unit owners must vote in favor of the
amendment to the Declaration when proposed by the association. Under
Section 6.2, if the Board wishes to amend the Declaration, it can do so upon
unanimous vote of all directors; however, the amendments can only relate to
very limited topics: (1) mortgages, (2) requirements by any governmental
authority, or (3) “provisions of this Declaration to any provisions of the
[Florida Condominium Act] or any rule promulgated thereunder, or any other
applicable statute or regulation now or hereafter adopted or amended.”
It is undisputed the Board is authorized to enact rules and regulations,
but that power is not unlimited. “Clearly, a condominium board may not adopt
rules modifying the provisions of a declaration without proper amendment [of
2 During oral argument, the Association withdrew its contrary and
inaccurate assertion found in its reply brief that Section 17.4 “expressly limits
the right of pet ownership exclusively to unit owners.”
the declaration].” Mohnani v. La Cancha Condo. Ass’n, 590 So. 2d 36, 37–
38 (Fla. 4th DCA 1991) (quoting Gordon v. Palm Aire Country Club Condo.
Ass’n, 497 So. 2d 1284, 1285 (Fla. 4th DCA 1986)). However, that is exactly
what the Board attempted to do by adopting Rule IX. Given that the
requirements of Section 6.1 for amending the Declaration were not followed,
and Section 6.2 was inapplicable, the Association and its Board lacked
authority to adopt Rule IX.
Outcome: Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s final judgment that affirmed the
arbitrator’s decision and specifically ordered the Association to restore the
dog park and wallyball court and further ordered the Association to
immediately void, revoke, withdraw, and not enforce Rule IX.