26th Feb 2015
One headache for associations that has remained consistent since the collapse of the housing bubble is what to do about units that sit vacant month after month after having been abandoned by the original owner. Often, the bank has stalled its mortgage foreclosure case for years – or worse, hasn’t yet filed its case – while the unit sits with no power and no one to care for it.
Fortunately, as of July 1, 2014, the Legislature provided some additional power for the association to take care of abandoned units. See Section 718.111(5)(b), Florida Stats. First, a unit is considered “abandoned” under the statute where it is in foreclosure but it appears as if it’s been vacant for at least 4 continuous weeks or it’s been vacant for 2 consecutive months and the association is unable to contact the owner or determine the whereabouts of the owner after reasonable inquiry.
If the unit appears to be abandoned, then, regardless of whether authority is provided in the declaration or other recorded condominium documents, the association, at the sole discretion of the board, may enter an abandoned unit to inspect the unit and adjoining common elements and:
- make repairs to the unit or to the common elements serving the unit, as needed;
- repair the unit if mold or deterioration is present;
- turn on the utilities for the unit; or
- otherwise maintain, preserve, or protect the unit and adjoining common elements.
Note that, except in the case of an emergency, an association may not enter an abandoned unit until 2 days after notice of the association’s intent to enter the unit has been mailed or hand-delivered to the owner at the address of the owner as reflected in the records of the association (or by email to unit owners who previously consented to receive notice via email).
The association’s expenses for dealing with the abandoned unit may be charged back to the unit owner as an assessment and the association may use its lien authority to collect the expense.
The new law also provides that an association may petition a court to appoint a receiver to lease out an abandoned unit for the benefit of the association to offset against the rental income the association’s costs and expenses of maintaining, preserving, and protecting the unit and the adjoining common elements, including the costs of the receivership and all unpaid assessments, interest, administrative late fees, costs, and reasonable attorney fees. Typically, receivers will do so and charge a percentage on the rent they collect.