During transfers of properties in condominiums or other planned communities, community associations are frequently contacted by prospective buyers, lenders or realtors with requests for information pertinent to the transfer. Often, these requests seek detailed information about a broad range of topics related to the condition and operation of the community. Complying with such requests can become extremely time-consuming for directors or property managers tasked with preparing the responses. Fortunately, community associations are not required to provide any information to prospective buyers, lenders, or realtors under Florida law.
However, community associations are required to respond to certain requests from owners or their mortgagees. Both Chapters 718 and 720, Florida Statutes, require community associations and homeowners associations, respectively, to provide requesting owners or mortgagees with certificates stating all assessments or other amounts owed to the association. The certificates, commonly referred to as “Estoppel Certificates,” must be signed by an officer or authorized agent of the association. Both Chapter 718 and 720 allow the association to collect a fee for preparing the Estoppel Certificate. The Estoppel Certificates are binding on the Association and prevent the Association from seeking to collect more than the amount stated on the Estoppel Certificate from anyone, other than the owner, who relies on the Estoppel Certificates.
Although Estoppel Certificates are only available to owners and mortgagees under both Chapter 718 and 720, they are nonetheless frequently requested by prospective buyers, lenders or realtors. While not mandatory, many Associations often provide prospective purchasers, lenders and realtors with Estoppel Certificates as well as other basic information, such as statements concerning outstanding violations of governing documents related to particular properties. This can serve to facilitate smooth transfers of properties in the community. In addition to benefitting the association’s current and future members, providing basic information for distressed properties may have the added benefit of causing past due assessments to be paid and violations to be corrected pursuant to the transfer.
Notwithstanding the absence of Florida law compelling responses to requests for information from prospective purchasers, lenders and realtors, a community association’s governing documents may require disclosure of a greater amount of information. Additionally, condominium associations are required under Chapter 718 to respond to written inquiries from owners concerning topics other than those addressed in Estoppel Certificates. Accordingly, community associations should carefully consider the source and nature of requests for information, as well as the community association’s obligations to respond under their individual governing documents, before determining what information will be provided.