Community Association Law

Tannenbaum Law Group's founding partner, Alan Tannenbaum, has more than 31 years experience as a community association attorney focusing primarily on turnover claims, first-party insurance claims and construction law and litigation. He is Board Certified in Construction Law by the Florida Bar. Salvatore Scro co-heads Tannenbaum Law Group's Community Association Turnover and Construction Practice.

  • Why Retain Special Counsel for Turnover Claims and Construction Issues?
  • Was Your Money Properly Accounted for Pre-Transition?
  • Documenting Remedial Work Projects

Why Retain Special Counsel for Turnover Claims and Construction Issues?

Every community association should have a general counsel under retainer to advise on day-to-day operations and ongoing legal issues. During the transition period, general counsel can be of great assistance to a new Board in getting acclimated to the varied requirements of the documents, state statutes and administrative rules.

The transition period is also the time for the construction quality of the buildings and improvements to be evaluated and for Association financial operation during the period of developer control to be scrutinized. The type of law firm best suited to assist in the evaluation and to negotiate a resolution of possible claims is a trial firm experienced in negotiating and litigating community association construction and accounting claims.

Tannenbaum Law Group's focus is on the evaluation and negotiation of turnover claims. Certain law firms you may consider will offer services on both accounts (general counsel and turnover claims). Although the concept of a "one-stop shop" may be initially appealing, the Board should closely scrutinize whether the firm being considered is as strong on the turnover claims side as it is on the general counsel side.

Alan Tannenbaum has extensive experience (more than 30 years) representing community associations in negotiations with developers and other responsible parties to resolve construction warranty and financial issues arising at turnover. He has been instrumental in negotiating the resolution of tens of millions of dollars of warranty and accounting claims. He was lead counsel in securing one of the largest jury awards ($3.35 million) for a plaintiff condominium association in a construction defects matter.

The first step would be for the Board to secure reports from engineering and accounting firms on the quality of construction and the condition of association finances during the period of developer control, respectively.

We can assist the Board in locating appropriate experts for this purpose and outlining the specific inquiries that should be made.

Once the results are in, Chapter 558, Florida Statutes, mandates a pre-suit notice and inspection procedure as a prerequisite for construction defect claimants pursuing their rights in court. Although most condominium association boards desire that their warranty claims be resolved without the need to resort to the court system, it is prudent to follow these procedures for no other reason than it keeps potential court resolution as a top-of-mind concern to the developer and other parties participating in negotiations.

Notice letters should go out to all parties potentially responsible for the defects, so an identification of the parties involved in the design and construction of the building is the first step in the process. In the notice letters, we will ask per the statute for file documents to be produced and invite the recipients to participate in a joint inspection at the site.

The recipients are required under the statute to submit proposals to resolve the claims, or in the alternative to reject the claims. Presuming offers are made, this would be the impetus for initiating negotiations hopefully leading to a settlement, which settlement could involve repairs or cash or a combination of the two.

Obviously, to evaluate offers and determine an appropriate posture in the negotiations, we would be working hand in hand with the Association's experts.

Was Your Money Properly Accounted for Pre-Transition?

Florida community associations are big businesses, with annual budgets for larger projects running into the tens of millions of dollars. At its inception to the point of transition to owner control (which usually is at least a couple of years), each association is operated by a board of directors appointed by the developer. During this "pre-transition" period, these developer-appointed directors are running the business of the association (collecting revenue, expending money, contracting for services, performing maintenance, establishing or waiving reserves, etc.). From the point each new owner closes on their unit or parcel, each is a shareholder and contributing member in the association.

Developer-appointed directors of Florida community associations have a fiduciary duty to the members of the association. In essence, they are charged with operating the association during the pre-transition period in accordance with statutory and documentary requirements and good business practices. It is a prudent practice for the initial owner board of directors post-transition to review association operation pre-transition to ensure that association finances were properly administered. Possible issues to be explored are:

  1. Were all assessments collected and in the appropriate amounts?
  2. If there was a developer guarantee, was it funded in the correct amount?
  3. Were reserves funded?
  4. Were association funds expended only for association purposes?; and
  5. Were contracts entered into fair and reasonable?

We strongly recommend that every Florida community association upon going through transition retain a forensic accountant knowledgeable in community association matters to review the developer's audit of pre-transition finances, as well as financial records of the association turned over as part of the transition process, and to provide an opinion on each of these issues.

Documenting Remedial Work Projects

Meticulous pre-job documentation is a key in proving contractor charge backs and fending off owner claims of damage. For a balcony slab rehab project such as is described above, the condition of each involved slab, balcony railing, slider, slider track, floor covering, window covering, wall finish and piece of furniture should be documented by photograph and in writing. The contractor and unit owner should sign off on a pre-job statement of condition.

If you are a community association manager or a board member of a condominium or homeowner association, contact the office today for help with the following matters of community association law:

  • Accounting claims arising from the period of developer control
  • Construction defects and deficiencies in new construction and conversions
  • Sink holes and storm damage
  • Turnover disputes
  • Warranty claims
  • Maintenance and repair contracts
  • Pay and change order disputes with remedial contractors

Please call 866-615-4543 to meet with Tannenbaum Scro, P.L.