We have blogged before about the battle brewing in Tallahassee between Community Association Managers and The Florida Bar. In fact, we are awaiting a decision from The Florida Supreme Court concerning what activities a community association manager can perform and which actions go too far and constitute the unauthorized practice of law. In the mean time however, a bill has been filed in the Florida House of Representatives which seeks to clarify and potentially expand the role of community association managers.
PCB CJS 14-02 would still not allow unlicensed managers to operate associations with more than 10 units or budgets in excess of $10,000.00. However, the bill does expand the allowable duties of a community association manager to now include:
Determining the number of days required for statutory notices;
Determining amounts due to the association;
Calculating the votes required for a quorum or to approve a proposition or amendment;
Completing forms related to the management of a community association that have been created by a statute or by a state agency;
Drafting demand letters;
Drafting meeting notices and agendas;
Calculating certificates of assessments;
Responding to requests for an estoppel letter;
Negotiating monetary or performance terms of a contract subject to approval by an association.
Before jumping to a conclusion on any item just yet, keep in mind that if the association decides not to hire professional management, and instead chooses to be self managed, any unlicensed member of the Board of Directors would be allowed to do any of these things and need not be concerned about being charged with the unauthorized practice of law. This is because the board member is not charging a fee to the association for the service. Community association managers charge a fee for these services, and that’s what makes what they do subject to an “unauthorized practice of law” inquiry. So, in reality, what is really in play here is whether or not a community association manager is going to be allowed to get paid by the association to do these things, as opposed to the association’s attorney being the only one able to charge. In a nutshell, it’s all about the money.
In general I have no objection to community association managers being allowed to perform almost all of these tasks as mentioned in the bill. If they can’t look at the documents and determine how many owners are needed to constitute a quorum or vote in favor of a proposed amendment, I don’t want them managing my community. The statute requires the association to maintain an accurate detailed ledger for all units, so what’s the harm in an association manager reading the ledger that they are required to maintain and telling an owner how much they owe? If the file is already in legal they simply better check with the lawyer first to see if attorney’s fees and costs should also be tacked on. Why can’t they use fill in the blank forms right off of the DBPR’s website? If they can’t prepare a simple agenda for a meeting, then I don’t want them at the meeting. Ever. For heaven’s sake, why make a community association manager get licensed and take continuing education classes if they are not going to be allowed to perform these tasks?
It gets a little more complicated though when allowing community association managers to draft demand letters and negotiate contracts. Forgetting to include certain buzz words in a demand letter or including too many demands can seriously delay an association’s right to proceed to arbitration or obtain relief. Forgetting to include terms in a contract or allowing certain horrific clauses to remain in a contract can truly be detrimental to associations as well. Many of you are familiar with contracts for laundry equipment that last forever. I once argued that such a contract is illegal because it is a contract in perpetuity and can go on forever with no way out for the association. The judge asked one question at the hearing: “Was the association represented by an attorney before signing the contract?” When I said “NO,” the judge simply said “Well they should have been. Case dismissed.”
So who supports the new bill?