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Keep your condominium from seasonal transient takeover
by: Rob Samouce
Season is rapidly approaching and with it will come everyone’s families, friends, acquaintances and short-term renters who want to get out of the frigid temperatures up North and come enjoy our great Southwest Florida temperate winter climate and exceptional ambiance.

Problems arise when all these visitors show up as some condominiums and neighborhoods start looking and acting like hotels or motels rather than the single-family residence communities for which they were designed.

Inevitably, these over-active communities will want to know what can be done to prevent or stop this yearly free-for-all and all the negative ramifications associated with the transient vacation occupancies, such as loud late night parties, excessive water and sand in the elevators, trashed-out pool areas, social rooms and clubhouses. Let’s face it: Those on vacation have a very different day-to-day agenda than those permanently residing in a condo building.

The biggest problems, of course, are caused by the temporary occupants of the residences when the owners are not present. When an owner is present, he will usually police his guests to make sure they follow the rules of the association. Just like fish that stay out of the fridge too long, his guests will usually start stinking to him even before they smell to other owners. The owner in residence will first know when to tell his visitors that they have worn out their welcome.

However, when the owner is not present, just like when the cat is away, the mice will play. Many visitors play very hard while on vacation when the owner is not around.

The way to legally control, or minimize, such out-of-control seasonal merriment is to incorporate reasonable leasing and guest restrictions in your governing documents.

It is quite common in this area for an association to limit leasing to no more than three times a year for duration of no less than 30 days, or even a maximum of one time a year with a minimum lease term of 90 days. Such restrictions will minimize the number of families occupying units during season, as well as keep the properties from legally being considered transient occupancy accommodations. A transient occupancy determination can have very costly compliance requirements such as having to retrofit the unit or building with expensive handicap accommodation and fire safety equipment.

Even if an association has good leasing restrictions, if it does not also have reasonable limits on the amount of guest visits allowed in the absence of the owner, the property can still end up with lots of transients. The reason is because once all the allowable lease periods are used up, some less than upstanding owners will tell an association that their next tenants, and the tenants after that, are not tenants but are merely the owner’s “guests”. Such owners will, of course, make sure their tenants understand that if they are questioned by an association representative, they are to say that they are not tenants but just guests of the owners.

In such situations, it is extremely difficult to prove that the guests are really tenants, so these owners can get away many times with having as many “guest” tenant visits as possible.

However, if good guest restrictions are in place in an association’s governing documents, an untruthful owner can only cheat so many times. After all the lease terms and guest visit terms in the absence of the owner are used up, no one else can occupy the unit for the remainder of the year.
A typical guest limit in the absence of the owner restriction would be a maximum of four visits of no more than two weeks duration with a maximum yearly aggregate of 60 days for closely related guests of owner (parents or children) and a maximum of two visits of no more than one week duration for unrelated or far remove related guests of the owner. This type limitation will still let a reasonable number of family and friends use an owner’s unit in their absence and at the same time curb the amount of cheating a lease happy owner can do.

Following are some lyrics from the B-52’s song “Party out of Bounds” that describe what happens sometimes during season when the out-of-town visitors arrive:

Yeah, we just thought we’d drop in!
Where’s your icebox?
Where’s the punch?
Ew, house-a-tosis!
Who’s to blame when parties really get out of hand?
Who’s to blame when they get poorly planned?
Crashers get bombed, slobs make a mess.
Ya know sometimes they’ll even ruin your wife’s dress.
Crashers getttin’ bombed. (Who’s to blame?)
Can you pull it back in line?
Can you salvage it in time?
People get sick, they play the wrong games.
Ya know, it can ruin your name!
Crashers gettin’ bombed. (Who’s to blame?)
Can you pull it back in line?
Can you salvage it in time?
It shouldn’t be difficult!
Try not to condemn!
O.K. Who ordered pizza?
I’ll be tactful when making the rounds
Be tactful when making the rounds
and maybeee you can save a parteeee.
Party gone out of bounds!
Gone out of bounds!
Party gone out of bounds!
Gone out of bounds!
Rob Samouce, a principal attorney in the Naples law firm of Samouce, Murrell, & Gal, P.A., concentrates his practice in the areas of community associations including condominium, cooperative and homeowners' associations, real estate transactions, closings and related mortgage law, general business law, estate planning, construction defect litigation and general civil litigation. This column is not based on specific legal advice to anyone and is based on principles subject to change from time to time. Those persons interested in specific legal advice on topics discussed in this column should consult competent legal counsel.