Rob Samouce: Family guest visits are important when you are here and when you are not

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away, I called him up just the other day, I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind” He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time, You see my new job’s a hassle and the kids have the flu, But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad, It’s been sure nice talking to you”

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me, He’d grown up just like me; my boy was just like me And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon, Little boy blue and the man on the moon, When you comin’ home son? I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son, You know we’ll have a good time then.—lyrics from Cats In the Cradle; Harry Chapin.

Well, in Southwest Florida, it is usually the dad who moved here from away and he wants his son or daughter and family to come visit. However, because some owners overdo reasonable amounts of guest visits, many condominium and homeowner associations want provisions in their governing documents restricting guest visits to keep their communities from ending up with a hotel/motel type atmosphere resulting from all of the out-of-town guest visitors (especially during season).

We first recommend to these associations that they should not limit guest visits, whether the visitors are related or unrelated to the owner, when the owner is present in the unit. As Chapin found out, it is hard enough sometimes just for the kids to find the time to come visit. In practice, we find that there usually is not a problem with guest visits when the owner is present as the owner will usually inform his guests about the association rules and practices, and most visitors will conform to the rules when they know what they are. In addition, such visits are usually self policing as the overextend guest will usually start smelling bad to the owner prior to the neighbors noticing.

However, the rule violation problems usually do arise when the owner is not present when the guests visit. It is imperative in these cases that the guests are informed of the rules by someone before they arrive. It is a good idea to ask the owners to give their guests a copy of the house rules before they show up and to also leave copies of the rules in a conspicuous place in the unit for the guests.

For some associations, however, even if the guests are supplied the rules, there are so many short-term guests coming and going and using all the facilities that the community really starts to look like a resort hotel with all the ruckus that can go on with folks on vacation. Loud late night partying and the constant dredging of sand and water into the elevators by the visitors can get taxing for the full timers.

For this reason, many associations will restrict length and duration of guest visits to put a limit on such activities. While some guest restrictions are more liberal than others, we have found that the following benchmarks work well for many.

If a guest is related by blood in the first degree to the owner (parent or child), that guest and their spouse and children may occupy the unit in the owner’s absence for up to 15 days. Such occupancies are limited to four per year and for an aggregate total of no more than 60 days.

If a guest is not related by blood in the first degree to the owner, that guest and their spouse and family may stay only one week and such occupancies are limited to two per year. The blood related guest visits are usually more liberal than the non-related because close relatives of the owners have a vested interest in not getting their people in trouble with the association, wherein unrelated people do not necessarily have as great an interest in the owner’s standing with the association.

It is also important to allow the board of directors to grant limited exceptions to these restrictions in order to avoid undue hardships on owners in special circumstances, such as when an owner is having a long-term stay in a health facility and the daughter is visiting from afar to take care of the owner.

Adding reasonable guest restrictions, along with leasing restrictions, to a communities governing documents by approved amendments can be very good tools in keeping an enjoyable residential atmosphere in the community.

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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.

© 2006 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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