Photo Jacob Weil

By: Jacob A Weil, J.D. candidate at Barry University School of Law

Earlier this week, we discussed a case showing how when you buy into an association you agree to abide by that associations rules. In a more recent case we see how this rule still applies. When you purchase an association you accept that what you do effects your fellow unit owners. You therefore must give up some of your normal rights in order create a living environment which everyone has the opportunity to enjoy. This article looks into a case involving a dispute over the use of common areas that happened in Broward County in 2003.* 

The board of Grandview at Emerald Hills Condominium Association in Hollywood, Florida, faced an issue when residents attempted to use one of the common areas to hold religious services every Saturday. The association, which comprised over 400 members had several common areas, including a small auditorium which could be reserved for events by association members. When some of the members of the association not participating in the services found out what was happening in the auditorium, they began to lodge complaints with the board.

The board, in hopes of avoiding the controversy that holding religious services in the auditorium might create, decided to hold a vote allowing unit owners to voice their opinion on the issue. Over 70 of the owners responded in favor of preventing religious services. Seeing these results the board voted unanimously to enact a new rule providing “no religious services or activities of any kind are allowed in the auditorium or any other common elements.”

The Neuman’s sued the association alleging the new rule violated their constitutional and stator rights, as it prevented them from assembling, and the broad nature of the rule prevented things like holiday parties, not just services. The court did not grant injunctive relief on the issue of religious services, however allowed a temporary injunction allowing religious activities. The board soon after this finding amended the rule so that it would only apply to religious services.

The Nueman’s appealed the trial courts ruling saying that the ban on religious services violated their right to peaceable assemble. The court however, disagreed. The main basis of their decision focused on past precedent regarding the nature of living in a condominium association.

“The declaration of condominium, which is the condominium’s ‘constitution,’ creates the condominium and ‘strictly governs the relationships among the condominium unit’s owners and the condominium association.’ Under the declaration, the Board of the condominium association has broad authority to enact rules for the benefit of the community.” * Ultimately by living in a condominium association you agree to live by the rules of the association. You essentially give up a small portion of your rights in order to live peaceable with a group you are part of. The court notes in particular that “each unit owner must give up a certain degree of freedom of choice which he might otherwise enjoy in separate, privately owned property.”

The court determined that the ban on religious service did not significantly impact the right to assemble of the Nueman’s enough to warrant disregarding the opinions of both the board and the 70 of residents who had shown they did not want religious services in the auditorium. Had the Nueman’s wished to retain absolute freedom over what they could and could not do they should not have bought into an association where they knew their actions and desires might effect those of their close neighbors.

At Royale Management Services we can help you to make sure your associations members know what rules exist and why the rules are there. Our Web Portal allows for a high degree of transparency between the board and unit owners. Royale Management also offers services to help the board know what unit owners want. By helping you with carrying out votes, and organizing your meetings Royale Management Services can help your board make sure id staying on the right track.

* Neuman v. Grandview At Emerald Hills, Inc., 861 So. 2d 494, 497 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2003)

**This article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Nothing in this article should be relied upon in making any legal decisions. Make sure you consult licenced legal council before taking any action as every situation is unique and the law may apply to your situation differently depending on the circumstances.