Many of you live in condominiums that have a “Master Association.” But what is a Master Association? Is it a condominium association? Is it a homeowner’s association? Is it neither? This question was recently addressed by the Third District Court of Appeal in Dimitri v. Commercial Center of Miami Master Association, Inc.
Commercial Center of Miami Master Association was formed in 1982 under the recorded “Declaration of Covenants, Restrictions and Easements for The Commercial Center of Miami.” Its articles of incorporation state it was created as a “corporation not for profit under Chapter 617.” Commercial Center operates as a master association for a group of buildings, each with its own sub-association. Benedetto Dimitri owns six commercial condominium units located in one of the sub-associations. On March 30, 2015, Dimitri sent the master association a letter requesting the inspection and production of specific documents pursuant to section 718.111(12). Months later, Dimitri filed a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and damages. Dimitri alleged that the master association violated section 718.111(12) when it refused to respond to his request for association documents. He requested the trial court enter an order determining that the master association was subject to chapter 718 – the state’s condominium association statute – and requiring it to “cease and desist from further acts of violation of Section 718.111(12).” In response, the master association asserted that it was not a condominium association subject to the disclosure requirements of chapter 718.
The court first held that the definition of “condominium association” as it existed in 1982 should be applied as that was when the property was built. That definition says: a condominium “association” was “the corporate entity responsible for the operation of a condominium. In 1991, the legislature amended the definition of condominium “association” to mean, in addition to any entity responsible for the operation of common elements owned in undivided shares by unit owners, any entity which operates or maintains other real property in which unit owners have use rights, where membership in the entity is composed exclusively of unit owners or their elected or appointed representatives and is a required condition of unit ownership. However, the court held this new statute was never intended to apply to condominiums already in existence and since the declaration did not contain language incorporating new statutes, the 1991 version does not apply. The court then stated that since the Master Association was not responsible for operation of the condominium, as that was the responsibility of the sub association, the Master Association was not a condominium association.
So is a Master Association a homeowner’s association? Maybe? Florida Statute 720.301 states: a “Homeowner’s association” or “association” means a Florida corporation responsible for the operation of a community or a mobile home subdivision in which the voting membership is made up of parcel owners or their agents, or a combination thereof, and in which membership is a mandatory condition of parcel ownership, and which is authorized to impose assessments that, if unpaid, may become a lien on the parcel.