Commack, NY asked in Real Estate Law for Florida

Q: How do I get a cease and desist order or injuction to stop an unapproved condominium association project in Fl.

A roof replacement project was initiated by our HOA Board without approval from the community.

On March 14, 2022 a meeting and vote was held in accordance with Article XXI, Section 1(c) of the Laurel Oaks Association’s Declaration of Condominium states that “the approval of 75% of owners is required to make material alteration to the structures”. The vote results were 51 for and 21 against out of 119 unit owners. Clearly 75% approval was not obtained for the material and roof line changes. Furthermore, the HOA board has approved a roof color change with no approval from the community. Despite this, Laurel Oaks at Country Woods Condominiums Association Inc. has proceeded with this project. A demand letter has been sent to the association without any response

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1 Lawyer Answer

A: These types of cases are difficult at best because they frequently involve materials that are no longer available and the building department requiring the association to bring the roof to code if it is being replaced.

To get an injunction to stop the project, you have to hire a lawyer with condominium experience because this is not a do-it-yourself project and requires a court order. There are no guarantees a judge will stop it, so if you lose, you are not only paying your attorney but the association's attorneys' fees. Of course, if you win, and you properly plead for attorneys' fees, you will be reimbursed your reasonable fees and costs. There is a very likely possibility the work will be completed before you get a court date because this would not be considered an emergency to have it heard at an emergency hearing.

Your other option to resolve this is to petition for arbitration after first sending the association a certified letter, return receipt, outlining your dispute and your desired resolution. Arbitration is very technical. While arbitration is cheaper than litigation, the big risk is, if you win, the association has the right to file a new case in state court and that will generally cost you six figures in legal fees.

At the end of all this, it will come down to a question of who suffers the greater harm -- the unit owners for having a roof they did not approve or the association for having to remove a new roof and replace it with another new roof. If you get your way and the association has to remove the roof and replace it, your assessments will increase to pay for it and it might even be a one time special assessment. Any judgment against the association gets paid with your assessments, which again, might be a special assessment.

I hate to sound discouraging but you need to know what kind of battle you are getting into and if it is worth it. While many homeowners facing similar situations with their association say it's a matter of principle, it still requires having the money and the heart to fight the battle.

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