CAN YOUR ASSOCIATION PREVENT YOU FROM BRINING YOUR PROFESSIONAL TRAINER INTO THE COMMON AREA GYM OR TENNIS COURTS?

The question of whether or not you can bring your personal trainer on to the common elements in order to help train or teach you was answered by the 4th District Court of Appeals last week.

 

In Charterhouse Associates, Ltd., Inc., v. Valencia Reserve Homeowners Association, Inc., here are the facts: Charterhouse Associates, Ltd., Inc. owns property within the Valencia Reserve community. It authorized Kenneth and Gail Browne to reside at the property and assume the ownership rights of Charterhouse, which included membership within the Valencia Reserve Homeowner’s Association (“the Association”). The Valencia Reserve community includes amenities such as a fitness center, which is the Association’s property. According to the Association’s Declaration, the center is available for the use of owners, family members, guests, invitees, and tenants.

 

On several occasions, the Brownes paid and authorized their friend, a personal trainer, to accompany them to the fitness center. He was only present when invited by the Brownes. Sometime thereafter, the Association entered into a contract with a third-party vendor, Total Health Systems (“THS”), to be the exclusive provider of fitness services in the Association’s fitness center.

 

The relevant provisions of the Association’s Declaration are as follows:

 

PRIVATE USE: For the term of this Declaration, the Association Property (except otherwise specifically provided in this Declaration, e.g., the Rural Parkway) is not for the use and enjoyment of the public, but is expressly reserved for the private use and enjoyment of the Declarant, the Association, and the Owners, and their family members, guests, invitees and tenants, but only in accordance with this Declaration.

 

OWNER’S EASEMENTS OF ENJOYMENT: Every Owner and family member, guest, tenant, agent, or invitee of an Owner shall, except as may otherwise be provided in this Declaration, have a permanent and perpetual, nonexclusive easement for ingress and egress over, enjoyment in, and use of Association Property within the Property (except as otherwise may be provided elsewhere in this Declaration), in common with all other Owners, their family members, guests, tenants, agents, and invitees, which easement shall be appurtenant to, and shall pass with deed and/or title to, each Owner’s Lot. This right shall be subject to the following conditions and limitations:

 

  1. The right of the association to establish, amend and/or abolish from time to time, uniform rules and regulations pertaining to the use of the Association Property.

 

Because of the contract with THS, the Association enacted a new rule prohibiting private trainers, instructors, physical therapists, and massage therapists from working in the fitness center.  The Association moved for partial summary judgment, and argued that the trainer was a licensee who could be excluded from the Association’s property based on the new rule. Appellants opposed the motion, and asserted that their trainer was an invitee permitted to enter the fitness center according to the plain wording of the Declaration.

 

The trial court ruled in favor of the association.  On appeal, the 4th District Court of Appeal reversed and ruled in favor of the unit owners, stating:  The Association’s Declaration gives its property owners an easement for ingress and egress, enjoyment in, and use of the fitness center, and specifically authorizes their guests and invitees to use the premises. When a homeowner exercises in the Association’s fitness center and invites a third party along, whether for companionship or personalized guidance, they are using the property for a recreational purpose. This remains true regardless of whether the guest is a friend or a business invitee, because the activity they are engaging in is virtually the same. The evidence established that the Brownes expressly invited the trainer to accompany them into the fitness center, he was only on the premises with the Brownes, and did not attempt to gain business from other residents. The trainer never entered or remained in the fitness center solely for his own convenience at any time without an express or implied invitation from the Brownes.

 

The Association claims they enacted the personal trainer exclusion rule pursuant to the Declaration’s provision authorizing the Association to “provide owners with service [and] amenities . . . which will enhance the quality of life at Valencia Reserve.” Regardless of the rule’s intent, it ultimately fails by directly conflicting with the Declaration’s provision granting a property owner’s invitees access to the fitness center. See Beachwood, 448 So. 2d at 1145. The rule contravenes an express provision of the Declaration, therefore, the Association exceeded the scope of its authority by enacting the subject rule. Accordingly, we need not discuss the reasonableness of the rule.

 

Good decision?  I think so.  As long as any owner is allowed to use the gym or tennis court, and bring a friend along, what difference does it make if the person they bring along is a personal trainer or coach?  Anyone disagree?

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