Gone are the days when a treadmill and a set of dumbbells in a fluorescent-lit basement room passed for athletic amenities in condo buildings and HOAs. Today, the size and scope of sporty offerings—be it basketball courts, pools or saunas—varies from association to association, but regardless of the specific facility, providing a safe, insured environment compliant with both governing documents and applicable laws is critical, and the responsibility falls to board members and community administrators.
For many Florida-based home owner associations and condominiums, residents are afforded the use of pools and tennis courts, among other amenities such as golf putting greens, fully equipped exercise rooms and shuffle board courts. Aside from the physical upkeep of equipment and facilities, drafting and enforcing rules and regulations for the safe enjoyment of these services is essential. Equally important is hiring qualified, competent supervisory staff.
“The [board's] primary concerns are caring for the safety and enjoyment of the residents, limiting the board’s exposure to liability and minimizing the costs for the condominium unit owners,” says Associate Attorney Paula S. Buzzi, Esq., from law firm Saavedra & Goodwin, based in Fort Lauderdale.
Since many boards change seats annually, the preparation of sound governing documents pertaining to athletic amenities is vital. To this end, boards should have a check list of “concerns” when drafting or revisiting rules and regulations. “Fairness, reasonableness, insurance concerns, safety, uniformity of rules and enforcement thereof, dealing with kids versus adults, liability, accessibility and disability access should all be considered,” says Associate Attorney Alessandra Stivelman with the Hollywood-based law firm Eisinger, Brown, Lewis, Frankel & Chaiet, P.A.
A Universal Approach
When considering what rules and restrictions will be placed on the amenity in question, industry experts strongly encourage boards to take a fair, unified approach. While liability is always a concern, an incautious or unthinking board can also subject itself to a discrimination case. “Uniform enforcement of rules and regulations is a big deal,” says Telese McKay, founder and shareholder of McKay Law, based in Bradenton. “There are cases where rules can be too restrictive, such as hours of operation. Boards have to consider user rights.”