Question: Can condo owners bring snakes as pets into a condominium without board approval? Are there any Florida statutes concerning this matter? Signed, J.G.
The answer to this question is entirely within your governing documents. Condominium declarations will typically describe owners’ rights to have pets in their units. Frequently these restrictions prohibit reptiles and other exotic pets. Other times, there are no restrictions at all.
There is nothing in state law that would, itself, prohibit a condo owner from keeping a snake (presuming that it is not a prohibited species (such as most pythons, which can be kept for only certain purposes), or a species that requires specific licenses and facilities.
Officials killed 34 caged pythons: Didn't mean to kill a pet boa constrictor named Big Shirl
Generally speaking, snakes are “Class III” animals, just like dogs, and they can be kept in condominium units, subject to the restrictions in your governing documents, the laws governing prohibited or dangerous species, and possibly municipal ordinances (though, offhand, I am not aware of any local laws that regulate snakes).
Question: When I bought my co-op I was never given a certificate of shares and I have never been notified of meetings or gotten documents that I requested from the building. What should I do? Signed, M.O.
While cooperatives and condominiums are facially similar, legally they are quite different. In a condominium, you are a property owner who effectively owns airspace, as well as an undivided share of the rest of the property. In contrast, when you buy a unit in a cooperative you are not buying property — you are buying into a corporation that operates a building, and you have an exclusive use right to a particular unit.
Most cooperatives do have some kind of paper evidence of your corporate ownership or right to use a specific unit (a share certificate, or proprietary lease, or something similar). Those documents are part of the cooperatives written records (the Cooperative Act, Chapter 719, defines these as part of the “cooperative documents”). Just like in a condominium or an HOA, you have a right to make a written request to inspect these records, and if the association does not allow you to inspect them within 10 working days, you can sue them to compel performance — and to obtain statutory damages.
The same is true of meetings — the cooperative has an obligation to post notice of board meetings on the property at least 48 hours in advance. Now, if you’re not on site, the association is not obligated to email you such notice; it just needs to be posted on the property.
I suggest you make a formal written request to inspect any records that you want to see, see if the association responds, and then take it from there. You may have no choice but to institute legal action.
Question: A part of Florida Statutes 720.3035 says:
“(5) Neither the association nor any architectural, construction improvement, or other such similar committee of the association shall enforce any policy or restriction that is inconsistent with the rights and privileges of a parcel owner set forth in the declaration of covenants or other published guidelines and standards authorized by the declaration of covenants, whether uniformly applied or not. Neither the association nor any architectural, construction improvement, or other such similar committee of the association may rely upon a policy or restriction that is inconsistent with the declaration of covenants or other published guidelines and standards authorized by the declaration of covenants, whether uniformly applied or not, in defense of any action taken in the name of or on behalf of the association against a parcel owner.”
Does this section mean the HOA board can selectively enforce the "rules" of the HOA by virtue of the phrase "whether uniformly applied or not"? My HOA does not enforce the rules consistently and I wonder if this is where they get their authority. Signed, J.H.
The language that you found does not mean that the association has a right to selectively enforce its rules. What it means is that the people enforcing the architectural controls (whether it’s the board or a committee) cannot enforce a policy that is inconsistent with the association’s covenants and architectural controls.
It’s not clear if that final “whether uniformly applied or not” refers to the enforcement of the conflicting rule, or the published rules, but either way this language does not somehow give the association the right to enforce its rules selectively. It’s simply a qualifier that relates to this specific policy.
If an association enforces its rules selectively it runs the risk that an owner could defend an enforcement action by raising the equitable defenses of selective enforcement or waiver — the statutory language would not change that.
Ryan Poliakoff, a partner at Poliakoff Backer, LLP, is a Board Certified specialist in condominium and planned development law. This column is dedicated to the memory of Gary Poliakoff. Ryan Poliakoff and Gary Poliakoff are co-authors of "New Neighborhoods — The Consumer’s Guide to Condominium, Co-Op and HOA Living." Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to include your location.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Must condo board approve my pet snake? Devil's in the details