The question of whether a condominium unit owner must provide his or her association access to the interior of their unit to perform repairs or maintenance to common elements was recently addressed in a Florida appellate court opinion, Hollywood Towers Condo. Assoc., Inc. v. Hampton, 35 Fla. L. Weekly D1424a, 2010 WL 2509178 (Fla. 4th DCA June 23, 2010). Hollywood Towers, a Florida condominium association, became concerned with the structural integrity of the concrete balconies on each unit, so it hired experts to inspect each balcony. The balconies are common elements under the association’s declaration documents and are the responsibility of the association to maintain. The expert discovered that Ms. Hampton’s balcony, among many others, had suffered corrosion requiring repair. The expert concluded that demolition and repair work should be done from the inside of Ms. Hampton’s unit to remove the appropriate amount of concrete and rebar four inches past where the corrosion stopped. The association determined that it would install a temporary dust wall to Ms. Hampton’s unit, to separate the work area from the rest of the unit.
Ms. Hampton obtained her own expert who concluded that the restoration work done on the exterior of her balcony was sufficient to make it structurally sound. She refused to allow the association to access her unit from the inside to do the restoration work to her balcony. Hollywood Towers filed a lawsuit, asking the court to require Ms. Hampton to give it access to her unit to perform the repair work. The trial court ruled that the association did not meet its burden and issued a partial judgment in favor of Ms. Hampton. The association appealed that ruling.
The appellate court recognized that courts should defer to a condominium board’s authority and expertise to select the most reasonable means to perform required maintenance and repairs to common elements that create the community. The court held the association had the authority to repair Ms. Hampton’s concrete balcony.
The case was sent back to the trial court with instructions to defer to the association’s decision to perform the repairs from the inside of the unit, if that decision was reasonable. The appellate court gave some guidance to the trial court in that analysis; specifically, the association’s decision to perform the balcony repair from inside Ms. Hampton’s unit should be found reasonable, unless the lower court determines that the association acted “arbitrarily, capriciously, or in bad-faith” in doing so.
This decision is extremely deferential to the association’s board in determining the reasonableness of the repair to the common element. This supports the purpose of community association living — to maintain common elements and keep the community in the best condition for the good of all of the residents.