So Tuesday has come and gone. We can finally watch TV again without being told which political candidate is the lesser of two evils during every single commercial break. No more annoying pop up ads on the internet begging for money or spam e-mails begging for your vote. Election season is finally over. Unless of course you live in an association where it’s about to start all over again.
Florida community associations generally hold their elections in either January or February. That means that the notices of the election are about to be put in the mail, and if you live in a condominium, you need to make your decision on whether or not to run for the Board of Directors very soon.
Last week we blogged about showing support for the political candidate of your choice by displaying signs. I opined that the association should probably not try to stop you from doing this, if the association allows the posting of other signs throughout the year. The question today is whether the association can prevent you from campaigning for yourself or a neighbor in the association’s upcoming election.
For condominiums, The Florida Administrative Code provides:
Upon the timely request of a candidate as set forth in this paragraph, the association shall include, with the second notice of election, a copy of an information sheet which may describe the candidate’s background, education, and qualifications as well as other factors deemed relevant by the candidate.
Obviously, the statute gives the person running for the Board the opportunity to campaign for themselves and tell the world why when they are elected the the place will be cleaner, friendlier and . how the assessments will magically be reduced. However, notice the portion I highlighted. Without fail, every year, a particular Board of Directors asks me to give them an opinion that prevents someone from submitting a candidate information sheet that criticizes the current administration. I repeatedly have to tell them that if this is information that is deemed relevant by the candidate, and therefore, the information stays.
The next question is “Can the Board of Directors officially endorse a candidate or candidates?” In a condominium, they can, as long as they are not doing so on association letterhead or in violation of the Florida Administrative Code which provides:
The second notice and accompanying documents shall not contain any communication by the board that endorses, disapproves, or otherwise comments on any candidate.
So, Board members, with their own money and resources, can send out mail to the members of the community asking the community to support those persons who the board endorses. So can any other unit owner for that matter. Again the 1st Amendment is alive and well in Florida community associations.
I would love to tell you these same laws apply in HOAs. However, the above provisions of the Florida Administrative Code don’t apply to HOAs because HOAs simply are not regulated by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). This is why year after year we hear the same complaints from HOA members who feel disenfranchised at election time and uncertain where to turn when there are irregularities in their annual elections. Next week, we will remind everyone why it’s time for a change to the election laws, or lack thereof in homeowner associations across the state.
So let’s hear from you. Have you ever received official endorsements of candidates from your Board of Directors, written of the letterhead of the association? Have you ever been told you can’t campaign for yourself or a friend? Have you ever had signs ripped down or mysteriously blown away? Have you caught people signing other people’s ballots or otherwise engaging in election fraud? Or…..is your annual meeting as friendly as a mah-jong or poker game? Can’t wait for the answers.