Whether you live in an urban high-rise in the heart of a large city, or in a more spread-out suburban HOA development, security—for both property and physical safety—is an important issue in any condo community. Who can come in, at what times, how long they can stay, and how freely they can move about the property is of concern to any conscientious board/management team. In order to maintain a safe, secure building or association, administrators must draft and enforce clear rules regarding non-resident visitors and guests— while at the same time not overreaching and attempting to regulate how unit owners conduct themselves in their own apartments
Them's the Rules
Rules and regulations concerning guests are generally laid out explicitly in the governing documents of an HOA. Is there a limit on how long guests can stay? “Yes, the governing documents can restrict the length of stay of guests,” says Tajiana Ancora-Brown, director of communications at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) in Tallahassee. “These issues are typically covered in the governing documents of the association, which become a contract when a person purchases their condominium.”
There is some leeway with how the rules can be implemented, but the professionals agree that it's advisable to have rules in place. “The association or board can really define the terms for what is a guest, how many times you can have a guest on the property for, say, a period of a year,” says Elizabeth Bowen, an attorney with the law firm of Siegfried, Rivera, Hyman, Lerner, De La Torre, Mars & Sobel, PA in Miami. “A number of our associations have a limitation on the number of unaccompanied guest visits that can be extended in a year. So, pursuant to the rules perpetuated by the board, you may be allowed to have an unaccompanied guest stay in the unit for a term of less than 30 days, three times a year. Or whatever they determine the rule is going to be.”
Depending on how the governing documents are written, there should be firm rules in place about guests—what they are, how they differ from short-term renters, and so forth—as well as the way illicit renters can be dealt with.
Having clear definitions and enforceable parameters is more important than laying out complicated timetables when it comes to controlling access and certain behaviors, says attorney Ramon C. Palacio, a partner with the law firm of Association Law Group PL in Miami.. “That is, while an arrangement spanning several months may at first glance be more indicative of a lease arrangement than if the stay was for just a couple of weeks, it is quite possible that a ‘guest’ occupying a unit is actually a short-term tenant. And, the owner is marketing the property as a vacation rental, which may very well be in violation of the association’s governing documents.”