Florida's Government in the Sunshine Law, commonly known as the Sunshine Law, guarantees Florida citizens have access to state and local government meetings where the government entity may make a decision on some issue. Failure to comply with this law can result in civil and possibly criminal penalties for public officials. Although a Homeowners Association, or HOA, is not itself a government entity, HOA meetings can sometimes be subject to the Sunshine Law.
HOA Meetings Subject to the Sunshine Law
Meetings of an HOA architectural review committee may be subject to the Sunshine Law if HOA approval is required prior to a Florida county issuing a building permit. If the local county building department requires HOA approval before it will approve construction, the HOA must open meetings of its architectural review committee to the public at large, and not just members of the homeowner association. This is because the local county ordinance has made HOA approval the first step in obtaining a building permit, which is a local government decision.
Florida law requires that an HOA must give the public reasonable notice of a meeting subject to the Sunshine Law. Reasonable notice can be accomplished by posting a notice of the meeting in a place the HOA typically posts notifications of its activities, such as an association bulletin board or association website. At a minimum, the notice should contain the time and place of the meeting along with an agenda, if one is available. The notice should be posted several days before the meeting is to be held.
Location of Meetings
An HOA must hold meetings subject to the Sunshine Law in a location that is easily accessible to the public. HOAs should ensure that the meeting location is large enough to accommodate members of the public and media that may choose to attend. A clubhouse or community gathering room would typically be adequate to meet location requirements.
Possible Consequences for Failure to Comply with Sunshine Law Requirements
The state may impose a noncriminal penalty of up to $500 for any HOA board member who violates the Sunshine Law. In any action brought by the state to enforce the Sunshine Law, a court can also award reasonable attorney's fees, which would be payable by the HOA.