lt's The Law
Association Can Arrange Cable TV
In a condominium association, does the board of directors have the right to vote in high-speed internet and HBO for each unit in the condominium without the owner's permission? And, can the bill be part of the annual assessments? To start with, each condo already had cable in the unit. Ninety-five percent of the owners are snowbirds which means they use to have the right to put their cable service "on vacation" when leaving. Now, cable will be on all year round and the assessments higher. Is that legal?
Florida's legislature has a long history of interest in condominium residents having access to cable television. In 1981, the legislature adopted a statute which provided no resident of any condominium could be denied access to any available franchised or licensed cable television service. The statutes also mandated that no condominium resident could be charged more than charges normally paid for like service by residents of single family homes or by providers of such services to single family homes within the same franchise or licensed area. That meant condominium owners could arrange for cable television (and likely internet) of their choice, but also that the owner would be billed direct by the cable provider. Only if the declaration of condominium allowed the association to arrange for a bulk contract could the service be made available to all unit owners and included as part of assessments.
The legislature's concern for cable service to condominiums reappeared in 1991, when the legislature amended Section 115 (b) of the Condominium Act. The amendment provided that cost of a master antenna television or duly franchised cable service obtained under a bulk contract would be deemed a common expense if so provided in the declaration. The statute went on to state that even if the declaration did not provide for such service, bulk cable television services could still be a proper common expense if the contract between the association and the cable service provider confirmed the service was bulk cable television service.
The legislature also expressed concern that some units in a condominium would pay more than others for the same cable service, as many association operates under rules requiring larger units to pay a bigger portion of the common expenses. Consequently, the statute was also amended to provide that the cost of bulk service may be allocated on a per unit basis rather than a percentage basis if the declaration provides other than an equal sharing of common expenses among units.
In 2010, the legislature decided to expand the bulk service authority of the statute to include bulk provision of all communication services as defined in Chapter 202 of Florida Statutes, information services or internet services. Communication services under Chapter 202 include transmission or routing of voice data, audio, video or other information or signals, including video services. The statute makes it clear that a board of directors for a condominium association can arrange bulk provision of television and internet services. As for inclusion of HBO, other premium channels or high-speed internet, the actual scope of service to be provided is likely within the discretion of the board of directors.
Florida courts have consistently ruled that the board of directors for a condominium associations should be allowed to exercise its business judgment in conducting the affairs of the association. Under the business judgment rule, courts generally consider two factors;
- Does the association have the contractual or statutory authority to take the action in dispute?
- If the authority exists, was the board's action reasonable?
Courts will not second guess the business decisions of a board as long as the board acts in a reasonable manner.
It is not likely a court would find your board of directors acted unreasonably in arranging for bulk service. Inclusion of a single premium channel and high-speed Internet, particularly in light of the increased use of computers and portable access devices, will also likely be found reasonable. If you are unhappy with the board's decision, your best recourse might be political. Elect a new board and when the bulk contract is up for renewal, convince the board to change the scope of service in the new contract. A majority of owners could determine the ultimate result.
By: William G. Morris, Esquire
William G. Morris is an attorney with offices at 247 North Collier Boulevard on Marco Island, Florida. His practice covers a broad range of subjects, including civil litigation, real estate, business and corporate law, estate planning and probate, domestic relations and contracts. He writes this column periodically with respect to legal matters that frequently affect non-lawyers. The information contained in this column is not intended as legal advice and, of necessity, is generalized. For questions about specific circumstances, the reader should consult a qualified attorney.
Questions for this column can be sent to: William G. Morris, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax, (239) 642-0722 or
The Marco Island Eagle
Other articles of interest can be viewed at our website, www.wgmorrislaw.com.