Question: I am a social worker and have a client who is struggling financially and thus has to have a roommate. Her condominium association always has had to approve renters. The board decided that it did not like my client’s last renter and is voting on changing the rules so that unit owners can’t rent rooms in their condos. She was told she should sell her unit if she can’t afford to live there. Can you please offer some advice? – Jane

Answer: The property owner should read her community’s governing documents to see if the board has the right to approve tenants. I have seen many examples of boards making people follow rules that don’t exist outside of the statement that “this is the way it has always been done.” For the rule to be enforceable, it needs to be in the statutes or in the association documents.

Typically, renting part of your property is treated the same as renting all of it. If your community association requires tenant approval, the owner would need to get the OK to rent even just one room. These rules must be followed to avoid fines and other consequences.

If the association does decide to vote to change the rules and bans renters from the community, existing owners would be “grandfathered in” and still allowed to have renters while they continue to own the units. This applies only to condos in Florida and not to houses in homeowners associations.

Many municipalities also have restrictions on roommates, such as restricting the number of unrelated people who can live in a home, or even how many people can live there considering the size of the home or the number of bedrooms. While this does not seem to be the issue here, it is a consideration for other readers.

Finally, as for the board member who made the insensitive statement about the client’s finances: Be careful making comments when you represent your community. If the owner is physically challenged or feels otherwise discriminated against, you are unnecessarily opening your association to potential liability.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation.

Copyright © 2016 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.