Many Community Association Managers (CAMs) have a policy of drafting Claims of Lien (and Satisfactions of Lien) on behalf of the community associations they work with. The most common are drafting and filing Claims of Lien related to unpaid assessments, something widely occurring across the state. It is vital that all Associations and CAMs understand that this has been ruled to be the unlicensed practice of law by the Florida Supreme Court, and is therefore a criminal offense!
Where the Florida Bar and Supreme Court Stand
The Florida Supreme Court, in conjunction with The Florida Bar Standing Committee on the Unlicensed Practice of Law, has previously issued an advisory opinion on this specific issue and ruled the preparation of a lien by a third-party that is not a lawyer (including a CAM) constitutes unlicensed practice of law which is a criminal offense. The Supreme Court’s opinion stated as follows:
“[We find] that the following do constitute the unauthorized practice of law:
- Completing Business and Professional Regulation Form BPR 33-032 (Frequently Asked Questions and Answers Sheet)
- Drafting a Claim of Lien, Satisfaction of Claim of Lien, and Notice of Commencement form
- Determining the timing, method, and form of giving notice of meetings
- Determining the votes necessary for certain actions which would entail interpretation of certain statutes and rules
- Answering a community association’s question about the application of law to a matter being considered or advising a community association that an action or course of action may not be authorized by law or rule.
[We find] that following may or may not constitute the unauthorized practice of law, depending on the specific factual circumstances:
- Modification of Form BPR 33-033, drafting a limited proxy form
- Drafting documents required to exercise the community association’s right of approval or right of first refusal on the sale or lease of a parcel.
Drafting both a claim of lien and satisfaction of claim of lien requires a legal description of the property; it establishes rights of the community association with respect to the lien, its duration, renewal information, and action to be taken on it. The claim of lien acts as an encumbrance on the property until it is satisfied. Because of the substantial rights which are determined by these documents, the drafting of them must be completed with the assistance of a licensed attorney. For the same reason, we agree with the Standing Committee that the drafting of a notice of commencement form constitutes the practice of law. This notice affects legal rights as well. Failure to complete or prepare this form accurately could result in serious legal and financial harm to the property owner.”
Legally Protect Your Community with the Aid of an Experienced Attorney
We recognize that CAMs are specially trained in the field of community association management; however, we agree with the Standing Committee that there are several areas in that field which would require the assistance of an attorney.
Murrell Law specializes in representing communities and related entities (Associations, Property Management Companies, CAMs, etc) in matters such as these and would be happy to discuss this issue or others you are facing through a free consultation. Please see our Contact Us page to get in touch with our firm, or take advantage of our Free Online Consultation.
You can view the full text of the Supreme Court opinion at: http://www.ccfj.net/CCFJCAMLIENUPLADVOP.pdf