Some HOAs Subject to Sunshine, Lawyer Says; He's Concerned That Many Groups Aren't Aware They Are Subject to These State Laws

By Andres, Shakaya | The Florida Times Union, February 25, 2009 | Go to article overview

Some HOAs Subject to Sunshine, Lawyer Says; He's Concerned That Many Groups Aren't Aware They Are Subject to These State Laws


Andres, Shakaya, The Florida Times Union


Byline: SHAKAYA ANDRES

PONTE VEDRA BEACH - St. Johns County homeowner associations who have the authority to review and approve applications for building permits are subject to the Florida Sunshine Laws, County Attorney Patrick McCormack said Monday at the Ponte Vedra Beaches Coalition meeting.

"There are about 100 homeowner associations around the county recognized to have this authority," he said.

Even homeowner association committees, such as their architectural review committees, must give reasonable notice of meetings to the public; the public must be allowed to attend the meetings; and the minutes of the meetings must be taken and made available.

McCormack said he is concerned that homeowner associations' architectural review committees don't know that they fall under the Sunshine Laws, that they are not aware of the extent of the laws and that they are not aware of the penalties for breaking the laws.

"I have one or more items referred over to me by the State Attorney's Office pertaining to HOA and Sunshine Law alleged violations," he said.

Some homeowner associations, as part of their covenant, rule on building permits for their community. Others leave the job up to the county. Those that make the rulings themselves must comply with the Sunshine Laws.

The Sunshine Laws, first enacted in 1967, give citizens the right to access governmental proceedings such as records and state and local meetings. The records include written documents such as papers, maps and books, tapes, photographs, film, sound recordings and records stored in computers. Penalties for violations, a second-degree misdemeanor for those who knowingly break the law, could include a $500 fine and/or 60 days in jail.

Ponte Vedra Beach's Municipal Service District trustees were also reminded recently that they must abide by the open records and open meetings laws.

Clara Cowan, president of the Ponte Vedra Beaches Coalition, an organization of about two dozen homeowner associations, told representatives Monday that she invited them to the meeting to give them a heads-up about the potential liability.

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