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News & Knowledge

Regulation of Drones by Homeowners’ Associations

February 27, 2019

By: Gary M. Kaleita

The use of unmanned aircraft systems, typically called drones, is becoming increasingly common as technology has made them smaller and cheaper.  Some homeowners’ associations (HOA’s) are considering regulating them, since they can be used in ways that violate the privacy of residents.  In addition to flying them over properties belonging to other residents, operators can fly them over HOA common areas, including private roads in gated communities.

Drones with cameras that take photographs and videos present privacy issues.  Even drones without such accessories can be used in other ways that are annoying, or even dangerous.

Drone regulations in an HOA may be adopted by its board of directors if the HOA’s governing document permit the board to adopt rules and regulations.  Otherwise, they would need to be approved by the number of owners that is required to amend the governing documents in accordance with their terms.  Even if the board has authority to adopt drone regulations, because such regulations can be construed as restricting the use of lots, if they are to be adopted at a meeting of the board of directors, pursuant to Florida law the board must post a notice to that effect in the community and provide 14 days’ prior notice of the meeting to the homeowners.

Drone regulations should apply to any type of unmanned aircraft, either with or without cameras, and should govern their use by all owners and their family members, tenants, guests and invitees on, over or from any lot or common area within the community, except for drone use that the HOA may wish to specifically exempt from the regulations.  Such exemptions may include the following:

  • An owner flying a drone over their own lot, or over any other lot with the written consent of the owner;
  • An owner flying a drone over the HOA’s common areas so the owner or its authorized agent can periodically inspect the owner’s lot or home, or take photographs or videos to be used solely for purposes personal to the owner (such as for the purpose of marketing the lot or home for sale or lease), or as otherwise permitted by the board from time to time; and
  • An owner flying a drone over portions of the HOA common areas that are considered “open space” (i.e., areas not improved by roads, sidewalks, ponds, fountains, tennis courts, playgrounds, gatehouses, entry features or other permanent improvements, besides landscaping).

Drone regulations should contemplate that any party operating a drone within the community shall be deemed to have agreed to:

  • Assume all risks and liabilities associated with such activity (including but not limited to liability for injuries to themselves and others, damage to property, claims of invasion of privacy, nuisance, harassment, etc.),
  • Indemnify the HOA and its directors, officers and other representatives against any claims that may be asserted against them on account of the operator’s activities (including but not limited to reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs).

The HOA may wish to specify that all drones must be operated in accordance with federal, state and local regulations, all as amended from time to time.  Although that is obviously required anyway, having it included in the HOA’s drone regulations would give the HOA remedies (such as fines) for violations.

Additionally, in no event should an operator of a drone be permitted to take photographs or videos of any person without that person’s prior written consent, or invade the privacy of another person on any lot or common area.  Finally, no party should be allowed to operate a drone in any manner that constitutes a danger to persons or property, that constitutes a nuisance, or that harasses, annoys, or disturbs the quiet enjoyment of another person, including without limitation, another owner or their family members, lessees, guests or invitees.

The board of directors should be vested with the exclusive authority to adopt other rules and regulations concerning the operation of drones on, over or from lots or common areas within the community.

For any questions regarding drone regulations in HOA, please contact Gary Kaleita at gary.kaleita@lowndes-law.com.


Gary

With more than 30 years of experience in real estate law, including over 20 years as a Board-certified expert in the field, Gary Kaleita has acquired the ability to navigate the complexities of sophisticated real estate deals with relative ease.


Gary has a wide variety of experience in real estate development, finance and transactions, condominiums, property owners’ associations, commercial leasing, commercial lending, and title insurance.

Gary enjoys a reputation for anticipating and avoiding problems, rather than merely reacting to them. He has years of experience handling purchases, sales and financings of commercial and residential projects, including office, industrial, retail, multi-family, single-family, condominium, resort, hotel and golf course properties. Gary has prepared and negotiated contracts for sale and purchase, performed due diligence investigations, and handled all aspects of closings, including issuance of title insurance and legal opinions. He has also performed tax free exchanges (both forward and reverse) under Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code, and has handled closings for housing revenue bond financing transactions with the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and various local housing finance authorities.

In the area of real estate development, Gary has assisted developers in obtaining land use approvals, plat approvals and permits for various developments from a number of jurisdictions in Central Florida, including planned developments (PD’s) and Developments of Regional Impact (DRI’s). He has drafted and negotiated complex land use documents, including development agreements, cost-sharing agreements, declarations of covenants, conditions, restrictions and easements. He also has experience in mall and shopping center developments, including outparcels, and has assisted developers with the selection, formation and operation of business entities, including commercial and residential property owners associations. He has extensive experience with the formation and operation of both commercial and residential condominiums as well.

In addition, Gary has established somewhat of a boutique practice by acting as local counsel to help out-of-state lenders, investors and law firms navigate the complexities of Florida real estate law. He is frequently engaged by large national and international law firms needing assistance on a variety of issues for their clients doing business in Florida. Gary regularly provides advice on Florida law and custom pertaining to purchase and sale contracts as well as loan documents, addresses local due diligence issues, answers questions involving titles, surveys and title insurance, and provides Florida legal opinions.

Not just another real estate lawyer, before pursuing his career in law Gary served as a U.S. Naval officer on active duty for 4 years in the Mediterranean Sea, first with a patrol gunboat squadron in Italy and then at a communications station in Greece. During this period he traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. He believes his military experience is the source of the practical approach he has developed to problem solving.

Gary also took the initiative, after a homeowner in his own neighborhood was mauled by a Florida black bear in 2013, of researching what his homeowners’ association could do to limit the likelihood of future attacks. In the process, he became an expert in the subject of “bear-wise” communities and drafted a policy that his own homeowners’ association adopted, thereby becoming the first residential community to be officially recognized as bear-wise by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). He has since written and spoken extensively on this subject, serves on the FWC’s Central Bear Management Unit Stakeholder Group, and has become a resource for FWC to educate other communities on the importance of bear-wise practices in areas of Florida containing black bear habitat.

Gary focuses on finding pragmatic solutions to complex problems, recognizing that clients want sensible and realistic advice in a timely manner so they can go about their business.

Chambers USA (2015)* reports that Gary has substantial experience acting as lender’s counsel and is acclaimed by market sources as an “extremely responsive, very practical and reasonable” practitioner.


*We make no guarantees or promises that the reader will realize the same or similar results

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