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  • Writer's pictureFrank Landrian

Hidden Harbour Estates, Inc. v. Norman,


Hidden Harbour Estates, Inc. v. Norman,

309 So.2d 180 (Fla. 4th DCA 1975)

Reasonable rules promoting the health and safety of members of a community association are at the heart of THIS CASE.

The Hidden Harbour Condominium’s bylaws provided that the condominium association had the power “to make and amend reasonable rules and regulations respecting the use of the condominium property.” A similar provision is included in its Declaration of Condominium.

The common elements included a clubhouse which was used for social occasions. The board adopted a rule prohibiting the use of alcoholic beverages in the clubhouse and adjacent areas. A condominium unit owner objected to this rule and sought injunctive relief from the trial court to prohibit its enforcement. After a trial on the merits at which the Normans showed that there had been no untoward incidents occurring in the clubhouse during social events when alcoholic beverages were consumed, the trial court granted a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the said rule.

The Association appealed this decision. The appellate court held that: “It appears to us that inherent in the condominium concept is the principle that to promote the health, happiness, and peace of mind of the majority of the unit owners since they are living in such close proximity and using facilities in common, each unit owner must give up a certain degree of freedom of choice which he might otherwise enjoy in separate, privately owned property. Condominium unit owners comprise a little democratic sub-society of necessity more restrictive as it pertains to use of condominium property than may be existent outside the condominium organization. . . . “

The court found that such restrictions were valid and that there was nothing unusual about a group of people electing to prohibit the use of alcohol in a common owned area.

So why does THIS CASE matter? Associations must review their governing documents to ensure that they have proper rule-making authority and whether only board approval is required to create a rule. The legal test for a valid rule is one of reasonableness. If the board has the power to adopt a rule, said rule does not conflict with some other right contained in a superior governing document, and the rule is reasonable, then the association can adopt it. If not, it cannot. It is not necessary that conduct be so offensive as to constitute a nuisance to justify regulation. It is always recommended when creating new rules that you consult with your community association attorney since the rules may not contravene the provisions found in the Declaration, Articles, and Bylaws, and may not violate state or federal laws, including but not limited to fair housing laws.

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