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Q: I would like some clarification regarding fees charged by condominium associations. The Florida Condominium Act states that no charge shall be made by the association in connection with the sale or lease of a unit, unless the association is required to approve such transfer and a fee for such approval is provided for in the declaration, articles or bylaws. Are associations permitted to charge transfer fees while management companies, who work for the association, charge other fees such as background check fees and estoppel fees? Are associations permitted to charge multiple transfer fees if the unit owner is purchasing more than one unit?

– M.C. (via email)

A: The statute you cite prohibits a condominium association from charging more than $100 “per applicant” in connection with the approval of a lease or purchase of “a unit.” Where multiple applicants are husband and wife or parent and dependent child, they are considered an applicant.

Costs incurred by the association (including background check fees) cannot be added as an extra charge. The reason the statute permits the $100 fee is to help defray these costs.

As to charging multiple approval fees for the simultaneous transfer of several units, the law states that the fee may be charged in connection with the transfer of “a unit.” Arguably, if multiple units are being transferred, multiple fees are permissible. There is, after all, some processing work affiliated with each unit transfer. However, it seems to me that if the association only needs to review background information regarding one “applicant” (assuming the governing documents confer the right to do so), even though the applicant is acquiring more than one unit, it would not be “fair” (even if legal) for the association to charge multiple fees.

Section 718.111(12)(e) of the Condominium Act permits an association to charge up to $150 (plus pass on any attorney’s fees incurred) in responding to certain inquiries from prospective purchasers or lenders. These inquiries are typically referred to as “lender questionnaires” and typically pertain to obtaining information to determine if a mortgage which is being sought will qualify for sale on the secondary mortgage market.

Estoppel fees are governed by Section 718.116(8) of the Condominium Act. This law permits the association or its authorized agent to charge a “reasonable fee” for the preparation of the certificate. A law was introduced in the 2015 Legislature, which passed in the Senate, but died in the House, which would have capped estoppel fees at $200.

The allocation of fees received on account of these various activities as between the association and management company is typically dictated by the management agreement. Some management companies keep these fees as part of their compensation, and some do not, it is included in their per-door monthly service charge.

Q: I am currently renting a condominium unit that is on the second floor of a four-story building and want to get satellite television. The satellite television provider came out and said that because of the direction of the building, the only way I can get a signal is to install the reception dish on the roof of the building and run a wire to my unit. My landlord, who owns the unit, says it is fine with him, but the condominium association has denied my request. I thought that the law said I could put the dish where I needed to get a signal. Can the association prevent me from installing the dish on the roof?

– A.F. (via email)

A: Yes. The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has adopted a rule which regulates the use of “Over The Air Reception Devices,” commonly called the “OTARD Rule.” The rule states that a condominium association must allow a resident to install a satellite reception dish of one meter or less in diameter within the portion of the condominium property the resident owns or has exclusive use of.

As such, a satellite dish can be in the unit itself or another area that the resident has exclusive use of, often a limited common element lanai serving the unit. However, you would not have the right to install the dish on the roof of the condominium building, an exterior wall of the building, or in other common outdoor locations.

Joseph E. Adams has practiced law in Southwest Florida for 30 years, and spent the past 28 years focusing his entire practice on condos and homeowner associations. His firm represents more than 4,000 associations in Florida, including some 1,000 associations in the Southwest Florida market. He personally serves as counsel to a number of condo associations on Marco Island.

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