Developer influencing vote on restrictive covenant

(Hollywood, Florida)

Visitor Question: A developer is trying to develop a golf course and green space which is protected by a restrictive covenant in the deed. We are soon to vote on it with all condo/unit owners who have a vote. The vote is totally controlled by the developer. How can we force the developer to include members who do not want the deed changed? He is running a prize lottery for those who vote to get them in and wine and dine them along with a sales pitch to get people to vote yes. Is this illegal?

Editors Reply: We're not going to comment on whether the developer's behavior is illegal, since we are not attorneys and also since the answer certainly would depend on Florida law and the specifics of your master deed and also of the developer's behavior.

Some general comments could be helpful to you and others though. As disgusting as it may be for you to see the developer wine and dine your neighbors and fellow property owners, this developer no doubt thinks he or she is doing what it takes to win over those who vote.

Your question is not clear about whether the developer owns any property in your development right now. If so, the developer clearly has more rights (and would be in a stronger legal position) than if he, she, or the corporation represented by the developer does not currently own any real estate there.

Your options may come down to two:

(1) Hire your own attorney (splitting the cost with any neighbors who share your opposition to this scheme) to look into the legal situation. If the behavior is likely to be ruled illegal in a Florida court, then it is possible that a good lawyer could seek and win an injunction against the developer's behavior.

On the other hand, if this developer is just being disgusting, or just being unethical but not clearly acting outside what the law would allow, then you have lost money in addition to possibly losing on the issue.

(2) Mounting your own campaign. You may not want to spend your money to offer a prize lottery or to wine and dine the neighbors, but you certainly could offer a simple barbecue to explain why you feel that the restrictive covenant should not be changed.

While some people's heads will be turned by the bribes, others who have eagerly anticipated a night out or winning a prize might decide that their behavior actually was shameful and that they should give your point of view a chance.

Those are the two approaches you could take to this question, since there is no simply answer as to whether this behavior is illegal.

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