SLAPP Suits are Prohibited in HOA’s
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Last updated: Monday, March 17, 2008

Except for the rare occasions of remodeling or repairs, common areas such as clubhouse, pool and recreational facilities should be made available for owners and their guess. Owners also have a right to peacefully assemble. This means, if arranged for in a peaceful manner, residents have an irrevocable right to invite public speakers or candidates for public office to speak in assigned common areas. See, “The Right of Owners to Peacefully Assemble”.

Beyond recall by the association, homeowners may display a United States flag in a respectful manner. However, if the flag is obtrusively too big, the board may deem a nuisance. See, “Displaying an American Flag in a Planned Development, Condominium or Homeowner”.

If an owner, resident or occupant has a disability which requires wheelchair access, may install a ramp under these conditions:

Design, plans or specifications are submitted to the association in advance. This should be part of the application process.

The access ramp should be designed to aesthetically blend with walkways. The board can make reasonable chances to architecturally fuse or fit with existing surfaces and structures.

The parcel owner must submit to the association an affidavit from a physician attesting to the medical necessity or disability of the resident or occupant of the parcel requiring the access ramp. Certification used for s. 320.0848 shall be sufficient to meet the affidavit requirement.

Most governing documents prohibits signs posted in the community. However, a security sign of reasonable size cannot be revoked if placed ten feet from the front entrance of a home.

A Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suit cannot with merit be brought against a parcel owner for any of the above actions. Nor, can a homeowner association use association funds to bring such actions to court. For more fun facts see, “What you should know about Hurricane Shutter Installations in Condominiums and Cooperatives”. To review supporting documents, click here.

720.304  Right of owners to peaceably assemble; display of flag; SLAPP suits prohibited.–
(1)  All common areas and recreational facilities serving any homeowners’ association shall be available to parcel owners in the homeowners’ association served thereby and their invited guests for the use intended for such common areas and recreational facilities. The entity or entities responsible for the operation of the common areas and recreational facilities may adopt reasonable rules and regulations pertaining to the use of such common areas and recreational facilities. No entity or entities shall unreasonably restrict any parcel owner’s right to peaceably assemble or right to invite public officers or candidates for public office to appear and speak in common areas and recreational facilities.
(2)  Any homeowner may display one portable, removable United States flag or official flag of the State of Florida in a respectful manner, and on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day may display in a respectful manner portable, removable official flags, not larger than 41/2 feet by 6 feet, which represent the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, regardless of any declaration rules or requirements dealing with flags or decorations.
(3)  Any owner prevented from exercising rights guaranteed by subsection (1) or subsection (2) may bring an action in the appropriate court of the county in which the alleged infringement occurred, and, upon favorable adjudication, the court shall enjoin the enforcement of any provision contained in any homeowners’ association document or rule that operates to deprive the owner of such rights.
(4)  It is the intent of the Legislature to protect the right of parcel owners to exercise their rights to instruct their representatives and petition for redress of grievances before the various governmental entities of this state as protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and s. 5, Art. I of the State Constitution. The Legislature recognizes that “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” or “SLAPP” suits, as they are typically called, have occurred when members are sued by individuals, business entities, or governmental entities arising out of a parcel owner’s appearance and presentation before a governmental entity on matters related to the homeowners’ association. However, it is the public policy of this state that government entities, business organizations, and individuals not engage in SLAPP suits because such actions are inconsistent with the right of parcel owners to participate in the state’s institutions of government. Therefore, the Legislature finds and declares that prohibiting such lawsuits by governmental entities, business entities, and individuals against parcel owners who address matters concerning their homeowners’ association will preserve this fundamental state policy, preserve the constitutional rights of parcel owners, and assure the continuation of representative government in this state. It is the intent of the Legislature that such lawsuits be expeditiously disposed of by the courts.
(a)  As used in this subsection, the term “governmental entity” means the state, including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, the independent establishments of the state, counties, municipalities, districts, authorities, boards, or commissions, or any agencies of these branches which are subject to chapter 286.
(b)  A governmental entity, business organization, or individual in this state may not file or cause to be filed through its employees or agents any lawsuit, cause of action, claim, cross-claim, or counterclaim against a parcel owner without merit and solely because such parcel owner has exercised the right to instruct his or her representatives or the right to petition for redress of grievances before the various governmental entities of this state, as protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and s. 5, Art. I of the State Constitution.
(c)  A parcel owner sued by a governmental entity, business organization, or individual in violation of this section has a right to an expeditious resolution of a claim that the suit is in violation of this section. A parcel owner may petition the court for an order dismissing the action or granting final judgment in favor of that parcel owner. The petitioner may file a motion for summary judgment, together with supplemental affidavits, seeking a determination that the governmental entity’s, business organization’s, or individual’s lawsuit has been brought in violation of this section. The governmental entity, business organization, or individual shall thereafter file its response and any supplemental affidavits. As soon as practicable, the court shall set a hearing on the petitioner’s motion, which shall be held at the earliest possible time after the filing of the governmental entity’s, business organization’s or individual’s response. The court may award the parcel owner sued by the governmental entity, business organization, or individual actual damages arising from the governmental entity’s, individual’s, or business organization’s violation of this section. A court may treble the damages awarded to a prevailing parcel owner and shall state the basis for the treble damages award in its judgment. The court shall award the prevailing party reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred in connection with a claim that an action was filed in violation of this section.
(d)  Homeowners’ associations may not expend association funds in prosecuting a SLAPP suit against a parcel owner.
(5)(a)  Any parcel owner may construct an access ramp if a resident or occupant of the parcel has a medical necessity or disability that requires a ramp for egress and ingress under the following conditions:
1.  The ramp must be as unobtrusive as possible, be designed to blend in aesthetically as practicable, and be reasonably sized to fit the intended use.
2.  Plans for the ramp must be submitted in advance to the homeowners’ association. The association may make reasonable requests to modify the design to achieve architectural consistency with surrounding structures and surfaces.
(b)  The parcel owner must submit to the association an affidavit from a physician attesting to the medical necessity or disability of the resident or occupant of the parcel requiring the access ramp. Certification used for s. 320.0848 shall be sufficient to meet the affidavit requirement.
(6)  Any parcel owner may display a sign of reasonable size provided by a contractor for security services within 10 feet of any entrance to the home.

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