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For Immediate Release

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Mobile, AL – December 13, 2017 – Hand Arendall LLC and Harrison Sale McCloy Attorneys at Law are pleased to announce that the two firms have agreed to combine effective January 1, 2018 to become Hand Arendall Harrison Sale LLC. This strategic combination brings together two firms deeply invested in the communities they serve, and will result in a southern, regional law firm that meets the goals of both firms’ growth strategies and will allow them to continue to provide high quality legal services, with greater depth and a broader range of services within one firm, to clients throughout the Gulf Coast in Alabama, Northwest Florida and Mississippi.

Hand Arendall Harrison Sale LLC will have approximately 85 lawyers across the southern region.  This combination gives clients access to lawyers in the Alabama offices in Mobile, Birmingham, Fairhope and Athens and Northwest Florida offices in Panama City, Destin and Santa Rosa Beach.  Roger Bates, Hand Arendall LLC’s Managing Lawyer, has been named to serve as the Managing Lawyer of the new firm and Franklin Harrison, a founding partner of Harrison Sale McCloy, will join the firm’s executive committee and serve as the Florida office Managing Lawyer.

Bates said, “I’m so pleased for our firm to be combining with Harrison Sale McCloy’s talented group of lawyers. In joining our firms together, we have renewed Hand Arendall’s more than 75-year commitment to clients across the Gulf Coast and together we have strengthened our experience in all practice areas across the firm.” 

When the firms began talks in early 2017, they quickly identified synergies, common cultures and complementary philosophies in serving clients, along with common strategic growth goals. Harrison discussed how this combination is a result of many months of discussions and shared what the expansion means to the firms’ clients.

“Both firms, Harrison Sale McCloy and Hand Arendall, have a long history of placing the needs of our clients first.  We are excited about the broad base of experience and expertise that will now be available to our clients and their clients through this merger,” said Harrison. “In a dynamic and ever developing legal industry, we made a strategic decision to continue to expand westward from our original office in Panama City four years ago.  Hand Arendall was strategically exploring an eastward expansion along the Gulf Coast.  After initial meetings and several interviews, we decided to team with Hand Arendall forming a new firm of Hand Arendall Harrison Sale.  It is an exciting next step in the strategic growth plan of both firms.”

In commenting on the combination, Doug Sale, a Harrison Sale McCloy founding partner stated, “Hand Arendall’s strengths complement our specialties just as our strengths complement their specialties. This merger provides the clients of both firms a broader depth of representation. We could not be more pleased and excited about our future.”

Preston Bolt, Managing Lawyer of the firm’s Mobile office said, “The joining together of the firms will continue the long-standing tradition of both firms in the communities we live and work in. We look forward to working together for our client’s best interests for many years to come.”

The complementary practices of the two firms was also a key factor in the two firms joining together to become Hand Arendall Harrison Sale. The firms’ clients demand and deserve cost effective, efficient and high quality legal services.  This combination will promote these client expectations by providing them access to the significant experience both firms’ lawyers have in representing businesses and governmental entities in areas including real estate, business and development transactions, health care, economic development, commercial litigation, public finance, education and employment issues, among others.

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Legislative Update - Associations. Pay close attention to new requirements for websites


The Florida Legislature was very active last year with many changes being made Chapter 718 of the Florida Statutes, which became effective on July 1, 2017.  Below is a summary of many of the changes.


Offenses which can Result in Criminal Penalties

  • A Director accepting or soliciting a “kickback” or anything of value for the benefit of him or her or their family;
  • Forgery of a ballot envelope or voting certificate;
  • Theft or embezzlement of funds of the association; and 
  • Destruction or the refusal to allow inspection or copying of official records of a condominium association that is accessible to unit owners within the time periods required by law in furtherance of a crime.

Conflicts of Interest

  • An association may not hire an attorney who represents the management company of the association;
  • A board member, manager, or management company may not purchase a unit at a foreclosure sale resulting from the foreclosure of its lien for unpaid assessments or take title by deed in lieu of foreclosure;
  • An association may not employ or contract with any service provider that is owned or operated by a board member or with any person who has a financial relationship with a board member or officer;
  • Directors and officers of the board must disclose to the board any activity that may reasonably be construed to be a conflict.  The statute now lists activities that are considered to be a conflict subject to a rebuttable presumption.

Official Records

  • Bids for materials, equipment or services are to be kept as part of the Official Records available for inspection;
  • A renter of a unit now has the right to inspect and copy the association’s bylaws and rules.

New Requirements for Websites

  • By July 1, 2018, an association with 150 or more units shall post digital copies of the following documents on its website:
    • The recorded declaration of condominium of each condominium operated by the association and all amendments;
    • The recorded bylaws of the association and each amendment to the bylaws;
    • The articles of incorporation and amendments thereto;
    • The rules of the association;
    • Any management agreement, lease, or other contract which the association is a party or under which the association or the unit owners have an obligation or responsibility;
    • Summaries of bids for materials, equipment, or services for the past year;
    • Annual budget and any proposed budget;
    • Financial report;
    • The certification of each director;
    • All contracts or transactions between the association and any director, officer, corporation, firm, or association that is not an affiliated condominium association or any other entity in which an association director is also a director or officer and financially interested;
    • Any contract or document regarding a conflict of interest or a potential conflict of interest;
    • Notice and agenda for any unit owner meeting no later than 14 days before the meeting.  The notice must be posted in plain view on the front page of the website or a separate subpage of the website labeled “Notices” which is linked from the front page along with any document to be considered and voted upon; and
    • Notices of any board meeting, the agenda, and any other document required for the meeting;
  • The website must be wholly owned and operated by the association or operated by a third party with whom the association owns, leases, rents or otherwise obtains the rights to operate;
  • The site must be accessible through the internet and must contain a subpage, web portal, or other protected electronic location that is inaccessible to the general public and accessible only to unit owners and employees of the association; and
  • Upon a unit owner request, the association must provide the unit owner with username and password and access.


  • An association that operates fewer than 50 units is no longer permitted to prepare a report of cash receipts and expenditures in lieu of financial statements (this applies in both 718 and 720);
  • Must provide an annual report to the department containing the names of all financial institutions with which association maintains accounts;
  • Unit owner may provide written notice to the division if the association fails to mail or hand deliver a copy of the most receipt report within 5 business days after the request was submitted; and
  • Association and its officers, directors, employees and agents may not use debit cards in the name of the association or billed directly to the association for the payment of any association expense.  The use of a debit card may be prosecuted as credit card fraud.

Board Member Term Limits

  • A board member may not serve more than four consecutive 2-year terms, unless approved by an affirmative vote of 2/3 of the total voting interests of the association or unless there are not enough eligible candidates to fill the vacancies.  (This section does not apply to board members serving 1-year terms); and 
  • The process to recall a board member has changed.

Association’s Right to Suspend Owner Voting

  • The Association may not suspend voting rights unless the owner owes more than $1,000, is 90 days delinquent, and has been given 30 days’ notice.  

Estoppel Certificates (Applies to Chapter 719 and 720 as well)

  • The certificate must be provided within 10 days after receipt of written or electronic request (formerly 15 days).
  • The Association must designate on the Association website the individual responsible for receiving request.
  • The maximum fee that can be charged for a standard estoppel request is $250.  This can be increased by $150 for units that are delinquent.  An additional fee of $100 can be added for rush requests.  
  • The estoppel certificate must list additional information not previously required, including, name of the attorney and contact information if the unit has been turned over for collection and the name and contact information for the insurance agent.

Our firm is experienced in helping individuals, managers, and board members navigate the Association’s documents as well as the Florida statutes.  If you have questions regarding how these new changes may affect you or your Association, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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HSMc Partner Attorney Dion Moniz appears on the Destin Business Forum TV Show.

HSMc Partner Attorney Dion Moniz appears on the Destin Business Forum TV Show.  A full service law firm,  Harrison Sale McCloy, serving Panama City, Santa Rosa Beach (30A) and Destin, Florida.


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Practice of medicine is a profession fraught with liability but anyone can use these tips to protect assets

Whether you are a physician or not, you probably know that the practice of medicine is a profession fraught with liability.  It’s not just medical malpractice claims either – employment related issues, careless business partners and employees, contractual obligations, and personal liabilities add to the risk assumed by a physician in private practice.  Unfortunately, in our litigious society, these liability risks are not unique to physicians.  Business owners, board members, real estate investors, and retirees need to protect themselves from a variety of liabilities too.


Below are three liability planning tips anyone – physicians and non-physicians alike – can use to protect their hard earned money. 

Tip #1 – Insurance is the First Line of Defense Against Liability

Liability insurance is the first line of defense against a claim.  Liability insurance provides a source of funds to pay legal fees as well as settlements or judgments. Types of insurance you should have in place include (as applicable):

  • Homeowner’s insurance
  • Property and casualty insurance
  • Excess liability insurance (also known as “umbrella” insurance)
  • Automobile and other vehicle (motorcycle, boat, airplane) insurance
  • General business insurance
  • Professional liability insurance
  • Directors and officers insurance

Tip #2 – Exemptions Protect a Variety of Personal Assets From Lawsuits

Florida has a set of laws and/or constitutional provisions that partially or completely exempt certain types of assets owned by residents from the claims of creditors.  Some of the property Florida exempts from creditors is as follows:

  • Primary residence or Homestead
  • Qualified retirement plans (401Ks, profit sharing plans, money purchase plans, IRAs)
  • Life insurance (cash value)
  • Annuities
  • Property co-owned with a spouse as “tenants by the entirety” (this applies to real and personal property)
  • Wages for the Head of Family (some exceptions apply)
  • Educational IRA
  • Section 529 plans
  • Health Savings Accounts
  • Disability income
  • Social Security benefits

Tip #3 – Business Entities Protect Business and Personal Assets From Lawsuits

Business entities include partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations.  Business owners need to mitigate the risks and liabilities associated with owning a business, and real estate investors need to mitigate the risks and liabilities associated with owning real estate, through the use of one or more entities.  The right structure for your enterprise should take into consideration asset protection, income taxes, estate planning, retirement funding, and business succession goals. 

Business entities can also be an effective tool for protecting your personal assets from lawsuits.  In Florida, assets held within a multiple member limited liability company are protected from the personal creditors of an owner.  Provided there is more than one owner, the personal creditors of an owner cannot step into the owner’s shoes and take over the business.  Instead, the creditor is limited to a “charging order” which only gives the creditor the rights of an assignee.  In general this limits the creditor to receiving distributions from the entity if and when they are made.

Final Advice for Protecting Your Assets

Liability insurance, exemption planning, and business entities should be used together to create a multi-layered liability protection plan.  Our firm is experienced with helping physicians, business owners, board members, real estate investors, and retirees create and—just as important—maintain a comprehensive liability protection plan.  Please call our office if you have any questions about this type of planning. 

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Do association rules apply to vacation rentals booked through owner/consumer rental sites?

           Home-sharing and short-term rentals have steeply risen in recent years thanks in part to websites such as Airbnb.com, VRBO.com, HomeAway and similar sites.  The rise in use of these websites causes significant issues for community associations, such as those involving privacy, security, traffic-control and parking.  Where the restrictive covenants are silent on the issue of short-term rentals, any ambiguity as to whether short-term rentals are allowed generally must be resolved in favor of the homeowners’ free and unrestricted use of the property.  That being said, many community associations and/or neighboring homeowners often believe that short term vacation rentals are forbidden by the association governing documents, as most governing documents prohibit “commercial or business use” and restrict the property to “single family residential use” or some similar variation thereof. 

          The First District Court of Appeal ruled in a case originating out of Walton County in 2017 that short-term vacation rentals do not violate restrictive covenants requiring property to be used only for residential purposes and prohibiting its use for business or commercial purposes.  This case appears to be a matter of first impression in Florida.  The critical issue considered by the court in determining whether short-term rentals are residential uses of the property is the character of the actual use of the property by those residing thereon – i.e., whether the renters are using the property for ordinary living purposes such as sleeping and eating.  The duration of the rental was not deemed a determining factor.  The court noted that the nature of the property’s use is not transformed from residential to business simply because the owner earns income from the rentals or pays a lodging tax.  Where there are several indicia of a business enterprise, however, other Florida courts have found violations of residential-use-only restrictions.

          As to the restriction mandating single family use, Association documents typically do not define the term “single-family,” and there is no common-law interpretation of “single family” in the community association setting.  Applicable local zoning ordinances may or may not provide a relevant definition of “single-family.”  Nevertheless, most Florida cases construe the “single family residence” or other similar restriction as restricting only the types of structures allowed on the premises rather than who may use or occupy it.

          Nuisance restrictions are also contained in most associations’ governing documents, but these provisions are typically very basic and provide little guidance in determining what constitutes a nuisance.  Thus, unless the short-term renters are carrying on illicit behaviors and/or causing loud noises at all hours of the night, it would be difficult to use the provision as a bar to short term vacation rentals.  To add to that difficulty, most such renters usually will have departed before any enforcement action is even begun, much less completed.

          An association can amend the governing documents to prohibit short-term vacation use, but adding such a restriction will typically require a supermajority approval.  For example, under the Florida Condominium Act, an amendment that prohibits owners from renting their unit, alters the duration of the rental term, or limits the number of times owners are allowed to rent their units during a specified period requires approval by two-thirds of the unit owners (unless otherwise specified in the governing documents), and is applicable only to owners who consent to the amendment and those owners acquiring title after the effective date of the amendment.  As for homeowners’ associations, the governing documents will generally specify the percentage approval required to amend the governing documents, and if no threshold of approval is set forth, then the Florida Homeowners’ Association Act requires the approval of two-thirds of the voting interests to amend the governing documents. 

          In many instances, associations may assuage the effects of such rentals by adopting rules regulating the manner in which vacation rentals are operated and charging fees to accommodate for additional burdens borne by the association.  Any such rules, however, may not effectively prohibit the use of such vacation rentals, must be reasonable, and must be consistently applied to all owners.

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