Attorney Brett A. Duker Achieves Board Certification

   July 29, 2021 - Principal Attorney Brett A. Duker has been conferred the status of Board Certified in Construction Law by the Florida Bar. Duker is one of seventy six attorneys in the state to earn Florida Bar board certification, which recognizes attorneys’ special knowledge, skills, and proficiency in various areas of law and professionalism and ethics in practice. Board certified lawyers are “Evaluated for Professionalism and Tested for Expertise.”     Florida’s legal ranks currently feature over 5,000 board-certified attorneys, offering expertise in 27 areas of law. With just one in 20 Florida Bar members able to call themselves “board certified,” it clearly is a crucial component in the career of any attorney looking to emerge from the crowd.    As the legal landscape grows increasingly competitive, board certified lawyers are able to use their status to set themselves apart from peers. And a growing number of Bar members are exploring board certification to help stand out in what they see as a crowded landscape. Minimum standards for construction law certification, provided in Rule 6-24.3, include: Practice of law for at least five years;Substantial involvement in the specialty of construction law – 40% or more – during the three years immediately preceding application;45 hours of approved construction law certification continuing legal education in the three years immediately preceding application;Peer review; and,A written examination. Congratulations Brett! Visit the Florida Bar website to see a full list of individuals who are now board certified: https://www.floridabar.org/the-florida-bar-news/76-florida-lawyers-earn-board-certification/ 

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'People are saying, 'Am I safe?'' attorney Peter S. Sachs says

   Sachs Sax Caplan, P.L. founding partners, Louis Caplan and Peter S. Sachs are quoted in the news regarding the Surfside tragedy.  "People are saying, 'Am I safe?'" said founding partner Peter S. Sachs. "'What repairs do we need in my building? What have we done, what have we done?'" "We don't have any re-inspections required in Palm Beach County, or anywhere in the state, outside of Miami-Dade and Broward County," Sachs said. "If we could prevent this from happening again, that would be a wonderful legacy to this whole situation."  “Our hearts go out to all the victims of the Surfside collapse and their loved ones. This horrific tragedy is a red flag warning for all high-rise condominiums, apartments, and commercial buildings – not just those along the coast,” said Louis Caplan, a founding partner of Sachs Sax Caplan. “The State of Florida inspects everything from elevators to gas pumps to ensure public safety, and we should similarly have statewide standards for buildings where hundreds, or even thousands, of people live or work,” said Peter S. Sachs, a founding partner at the firm who helped draft Florida’s original condominium laws in the mid-1970s. Caplan said Florida cannot leave the safety of buildings to volunteer condominium association members who lack the professional expertise to judge a structure’s integrity. “Condominium boards are willing to spend whatever is necessary to protect their residents,” he said. “The focus should be not on what it costs, but rather what it saves – lives.” Click the links below to read the articles in full. WPTV Article: https://www.wptv.com/news/state/attorneys-call-for-task-force-following-surfside-collapse-to-recommend-reforms WFLX Article: https://www.wflx.com/2021/07/01/attorneys-call-task-force-following-surfside-collapse/ Florida Politics Article: https://floridapolitics.com/archives/438646-law-firm-calls-for-special-task-force-after-surfside-condo-disaster/ 

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Condo Law Experts Urge Governor to Empanel Special Task Force for Statewide Reforms in Wake of Surfside Building Tragedy

   BOCA RATON, Fla. – Governor Ron DeSantis should immediately empanel a special task force of experts to examine the tragic Surfside condominium building collapse and recommend reforms intended to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again. That is the recommendation of Sachs Sax Caplan, one of the nation’s most experienced and respected law firms in the area of condominium law.    The special task force would include engineers, architects, building contractors, and other industry experts to make recommendations to the Governor, Florida Legislature, and state regulatory agencies in advance of the January 2022 session of the Legislature. The focus should be to develop policy changes that help establish a uniform statewide standard for building inspections and re-inspections, with the overarching goal of protecting life and safety.  The group could also make specific suggestions to ensure that existing condominium buildings are safe across the state and that current and future structures maintain the highest safety standards and structural integrity.    “Our hearts go out to all the victims of the Surfside collapse and their loved ones. This horrific tragedy is a red flag warning for all high-rise condominiums, apartments, and commercial buildings – not just those along the coast,” said Louis Caplan, a founding partner of the law firm. “The condition of aging buildings is a statewide problem, and it demands careful examination by a panel of experts who can make comprehensive recommendations at the state level.”    Since the June 24 collapse of Champlain Towers South in the Miami-Dade County town of Surfside, scores of questions are being raised, including the cause of the collapse, how to determine if other condo/high-rise buildings are at risk, whether building inspection laws and standards should be uniform statewide, and what steps condo associations should take to ensure that their buildings are safe.    Caplan and fellow founding partner Peter S. Sachs are urging the Governor to act quickly to create the task force and appoint members with a relevant range of professional expertise. Areas to scrutinize could include building materials, the frequency of inspections, and new mandatory disclosure requirements between condo associations and...

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Expiration of COVID-19 State of Emergency

       On March 9, 2020, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-52, declaring a statewide State of Emergency in response to COVID-19. This order triggered statutory emergency powers for community associations throughout the state. The Governor continued to issue Executive Orders extending the State of Emergency every 60 days, up until the most recent extension made on April 27, 2021. On June 26, 2021, when the Governor did not further extend the March 2020 order, the COVID-19 State of Emergency expired.        Although the COVID-19 State of Emergency has expired, the COVID pandemic remains, and Florida continues to experience new cases, including new infections from COVID variants. In light of this, we believe the statutory emergency powers may continue to be relied upon for a reasonable period of time to continue employing reasonable measures association boards believe are necessary to provide for the health, safety and welfare of residents and their guests. For example, associations may continue to require use of face masks in common areas based on current CDC guidelines. Additionally, a graduated reopening of amenities, such as restricted capacities and/or operating hours, may be appropriate in balancing the safety of residents with the desire to enjoy all of the amenities in full, pre-pandemic, fashion. Each association will have its own unique set of circumstances and needs shaping which measures individual boards believe are reasonable and appropriate for their association.        The governing documents for an association will further address the extent of a board’s authority to administer and operate the association and to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the residents. If your board is struggling with the transition from the state of emergency and authority provided by the emergency powers, you should consult your association attorney. Michael UngerbuehlerSACHS SAX CAPLAN, P.L.

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Safety Protocol Consideration

        On Thursday, June 24, 2021 around 1:30 a.m. officials received word of a building collapse in Surfside, Florida. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the residents affected by the tragedy at Champlain Towers South in Surfside. The condominium building has 136 units; approximately 55 units collapsed, and the entire building is now uninhabitable. The search, rescue and reunification processes are ongoing.         “Buildings just don’t fall down”, said Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett. He’s right, they don’t, which may lead to many other associations questioning their buildings’ structural safety and integrity. While it’s unclear what happened in Surfside, this tragic event underscores the necessity for associations serving multi-story buildings to be proactive and look at properties and their certifications to ensure this type of situation does not happen again.         In both Broward and Miami-Dade counties, there is a 40-year recertification process for real estate properties that are over 40 years old. Miami-Dade has had this process in place since the mid 1970’s, and Broward followed suit in 2005. The program calls for structural and electrical inspections for buildings 40 years old or older and every ten years thereafter. There are some exemptions depending on square footage, occupancy amount, farming buildings, as well as buildings on Indian Reservations.  While Palm Beach county does not have the same requirements for older buildings, it is highly recommended that buildings 40 years and older take these same precautions and follow these protocols.         Champlain Towers was built in 1981, making it a 40-year old building this year. Units in the building are typically listed between $600,000 and $710,000. This was a luxury condo building with many amenities and luxurious features. Surfside Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer said the building was beginning its 40-year recertification process and the roof was being redone. It is unknown if the construction activity contributed to the collapse.         40 years is a long time for a building to be around, especially when in close proximity to the ocean, and given the constant and evolving changes...

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Estate Planning For Minor Children

        It is often thought that estate planning is just for older people who are more established in their careers and lives and have more to plan for, when, that could not be further from the truth. From individuals planning for themselves, to married couples with young children, to retired adults, everyone can use some sort of planning.  This post will focus on estate planning for individuals or couples with a minor child and address some of the topics that they should be consider when planning for their child.           If you ask anyone with a minor child what their biggest concern is should they as parents, pass away, and most will answer that their largest concern is making sure their child is well taken care of. They generally do not mean this in the financial sense, but more in the sense that they will be raised in a good home and provided with the proper support system to help them grow. Here are a few things you should consider when planning for your minor child.         The first question you want to ask yourself, if you pass away, who would you want to raise your child?  That person or people need to be named in your Last Will and Testament. If your preference is not outlined in your documents, there is a chance that a legal battle will ensue to determine the best Guardian for your child(ren). The preference you have indicated in your Last Will is generally honored by the courts.         When considering who to name as Guardian, it is worthwhile to consider, the proposed Guardian’s religious and social values, the Guardian’s other children, where the Guardian lives and the arrangements available for your child.         Once you have decided who would be best suited to act as Guardian for your child, you need to decide how your assets should be distributed.  Without a plan, at your death, your assets would be given to the Guardian of your minor child and held for your child...

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SB 56: Impact On Association Collection Practices

        New changes to the Florida Statutes governing community associations will become effective July 1, 2021, pursuant to multiple bills passed during the most recent legislative session.  Among these bills, SB 56 is particularly directed to community associations’ collection of maintenance fees and assessments.  Board members, property managers, and any community association staff involved in assessment collection must be familiar with these new provisions so as not to jeopardize or delay the ability of their associations to collect assessments from owners who have become delinquent.         Perhaps the most critical legislative change contained in SB 56 likely to affect all associations at one time or another is a new requirement that associations send owners who have become delinquent a sort of “courtesy” notice advising of their delinquency prior to requiring payment of any attorney fees for collection to be paid by the owner.  Currently, there is no actual statutory requirement that an association first notify an owner of their delinquency before sending the account to the attorney (even though many associations already routinely do so.)           However, SB 56 amends the Florida Statutes governing community association “pre-lien” collection practices to now require associations to first send a delinquent owner a “Notice of Late Assessment,” specifying the amount due on the owner’s account and providing the owner 30 days to pay that amount before any “further collection action” (i.e., attorney collection efforts) and attorney fees for collection are charged to the owner.  Form language for these notices is included in the legislation, and, unless the association substantially follows this language, subsequent collection efforts by the association attorney are likely to be negatively impacted.  Further, the legislation creates a rebuttable presumption that the “courtesy” notice was mailed if a board member, officer, agent, or licensed community association manager “provides a sworn affidavit attesting to such mailing.”  This means that associations will need to have forms prepared and ready attesting that the notice was mailed to each owner it sends to the association attorney for collection.         Secondly, the legislation prohibits...

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Estate Planning During an Uncertain Time

          The COVID-19 crisis has caused many of our Clients to raise questions pertaining to their own estate planning, particularly documents that family members may need in the event that a loved one becomes hospitalized. Given this unprecedented time, we encourage all of our clients to consider the following: A. Are your estate planning documents that address legal and medical matters while you are still alive up to date, consistent with your wishes, and readily available or accessible? Estate Planning Documents that are effective immediately that we strongly recommend for Clients: Durable Power of Attorney A Durable Power of Attorney is a written document that appoints an “Agent” to manage your legal and financial affairs, and it gives the Agent legal authority over your assets and other legal rights. The Durable Power of Attorney becomes effective immediately upon signing, and it continues to be valid and effective if you were to become incapacitated. You should only appoint somebody that you completely trust. A Durable Power of Attorney often helps to avoid guardianship proceedings if a person becomes incapacitated, however the power granted by the document would terminate upon death. We recommend that Clients should review their Durable Power of Attorney to insure they are comfortable with the Agent(s) designated as well as the scope of the power given to said Agent(s). Your Agent should also be aware of the document and know where a copy is located. Designation of Healthcare Surrogate Also known as a Healthcare Power of Attorney, a Designation of Healthcare Surrogate nominates an individual (or multiple individuals) to make medical decisions on your behalf. It specifies the types of treatments that the health care surrogate is allowed to consent to, and it names alternate health care surrogates if your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve as your surrogate. A Designation of Healthcare Surrogate is effective immediately, however, when you are awake and have mental capacity, then you maintain complete control of all your own healthcare decisions. We strongly recommend to all our Clients to execute this document and to discuss their respective...

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Covid Order 2020-012: Associations

          As many of you may know, Palm Beach County has issued Order 2020-012 to mandate the wearing of face masks throughout the County. At this time, based upon our review of the Order, and the information currently available, we advise that any association with an open indoor facility, clubhouse, recreation center or the like, should mandate that all people that enter the building be wearing a mask. It is likely that employees who are limiting their movements to an office with no interactions with any other person may not be required to wear a mask. However, if there is any interaction between people within an association building, all participants are required to wear a mask.           For outdoor common areas or common elements, a mask is not required IF social distancing is possible AND followed. The County has placed the burden on the respective establishment, including community associations, to ensure compliance with this order, or face the possibility of fines. There are several exceptions to the mask requirement, including while exercising, for religious reasons, or for medical reasons. We think that some owners may begin to express a medical basis to be exempt from the mask requirement, however, that does not exempt that person from maintaining proper social distancing, which the association should insist upon. Please let us know if you have any questions.

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Covid-19 State of Emergency Extended Amid Phase 2 Reopening

          By recent order of Governor DeSantis, Florida’s state of emergency due to COVID-19 has been extended to the beginning of November 2020. In part, this means that homeowners’ associations and condominium associations continue to be able to utilize emergency powers pursuant to Fla. Stat. §720.316 and Fla. Stat. §718.1265 respectively. Notably, among other emergency powers, is associations’ emergency power to determine that portions of association property are unavailable for entry, use, or occupancy. As such, this emergency power allows associations to keep facilities closed or to reopen them subject to limitations upon use and/or access.           Furthermore, despite what state and local governments may be permitting in terms of reopening public facilities and businesses, because of associations’ statutory emergency powers and the continuing state of emergency, there is no requirement that associations reopen association facilities at this time. In addition, those associations that choose to reopen association properties may elect to do so in a way that is more restrictive (but not less restrictive) than what is required by applicable government reopening orders.           In terms of current reopening orders, note that Palm Beach County has just entered Phase 2 of reopening after being in Phase 1 since May 11, 2020. Some salient aspects of Phase 2 which are likely to be germane to associations are as follows: CDC social distancing guidelines as well as CDC cleaning and disinfecting guidelines remain in effect.Mandates on wearing facial coverings remain in effect and unchanged by entry into Phase 2.Restaurants and food establishments including clubhouses, banquet halls, and ballrooms may increase indoor service up to 50% seating capacity, bar top meal service may be resumed, and parties of no more than ten people will be permitted provided that separate parties are spaced at least six feet apart from each other.Restaurants and food establishments may be open for dining at all times except between 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Take out and delivery services are permitted after dining hours.Spas, acupuncture establishments, massage establishments, gyms, and fitness centers may resume operating at full...

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Sachs completes 10 years of service on the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council

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March 10, 2021 Sachs Sax Caplan at the PM-Expo, Palm Beach County

steve and michael
afternoon class

          Sachs Sax Caplan participated in the PM-Expo at the South Florida Fairgrounds on March 10, 2021. This was one of the first in-person trade shows since the Covid-19 pandemic took over the globe. It was great to get out and see our property managers, community association boards and homeowners association boards. Attorneys Steven Rappaport and Michael Chapnick led a Condo/HOA Board Certification class to discuss relevant governing documents and amendments, elections, reserves, official records and how associations should operate during Covid-19. Those in attendance received a certificate of completion. Later in the day, Attorney Steven Rappaport delivered a Legal Update on new and updated legislation and its effects. Being in-person (safely) has its perks, and we were glad we could connect with current and potential clients at the expo. Looking forward to the next events whether they are virtual or in-person.

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Three Attorneys Elevated from Senior Counsel to Principal

        BOCA RATON, Fla. (March 16, 2021) – Boca Raton-based law firm Sachs Sax Caplan has announced the elevation of three of their attorneys, Michael Chapnick, Joel Kenwood and Angela Prudenti from the position of Senior Counsel to Principal.         Michael Chapnick is Florida Bar Board Certified in Condominium and Planned Unit Development Law. He represents community associations, advising on all aspects of cluster housing operation, including day-to-day operational issues, collection and lien foreclosures, turnover of control and election issues. Chapnick graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government and Politics. He attended the Detroit College of Law where he earned his Juris Doctor, cum laude. He teaches continuing education courses to Florida Community Association Managers, conducts board member certification courses, and speaks on various topics including construction defects, real estate and condominium disputes, white collar criminal law, covenant enforcement, and occupancy screening issues.          Joel Kenwood is Board Certified by the Florida Bar in Civil Trial Law and Business Litigation Law. He is also Certified as a Circuit Court Civil Mediator by the Florida Supreme Court. His practice includes business related litigation involving real estate, construction defects, corporate disputes and general commercial litigation law. He also handles matters involving personal injury. He is a past President of the South Palm Beach County Bar Association. He received his undergraduate degree from Stanford University in Stanford, California. He attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and received his Juris Doctor from The American University College of Law in Washington, D.C.         Angela Prudenti concentrates her practice in commercial litigation. Prior to joining Sachs Sax Caplan, Prudenti was Chief of the White Collar Crime Unit at the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office in West Palm Beach. She also previously held the position of senior trial attorney in the Homicide/Crimes against Children Unit at the State Attorney’s Office. She received her Bachelor of Arts at The American University in Washington, D.C., and her Juris Doctor from Temple University.          ...

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Boca Attorney Helps Coordinate an Interfaith Vaccine Initiative

        BOCA RATON, Florida – On March 3rd more than 500 South Palm Beach County residents and workers received Covid-19 vaccines at an interfaith initiative hosted on the Temple Beth El campus in Boca Raton.  Nearly 20 religious organizations, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Boca Raton Police Department and local teachers participated.         Daniel Kaskel, a partner with the law firm of Sachs Sax Caplan, and Vice President of the Boca Raton Synagogue, began working on this event in mid-January, 2021. “In January, vaccines were very scarce, particularly in Palm Beach County,” advises Kaskel.  “I reached out to nearly every elected official and state and local government agency to create a POD, a point of distribution, to help the seniors in my synagogue obtain vaccines.”         In early February, Mr. Kaskel heard back from the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the agency tasked with creating PODs.  He was advised that the DEM was inundated with such requests and could not accommodate each one.  Kaskel then asked if the DEM would elevate the request if he presented an interfaith initiate comprised of a synagogue, church and mosque.  The answer was an encouraging YES.         In the few weeks that passed, a significant number of the senior population of Boca Raton Synagogue had fortunately received vaccines, so Kaskel turned to Temple Beth El. “Within a day I received a call from Rita Diamond, Temple Beth El’s Director of Operations.  They were very excited about the opportunity to not only provide vaccinations their seniors, but to invite other houses of worship to join,” recounts Kaskel.         Rabbi Greg Weisman of Beth El invited the Islamic Center of Boca Raton and Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church to partner in the event.  Kaskel presented a proposal to the DEM in mid-February, and the event was quickly approved, with a March 3rd date and an anticipated 500 doses. Among the DEM’s requirements was that vaccines could only be administered to individuals who qualify under state guidelines, no walk-ins were permitted, and the...

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April is Fair Housing Month

        April is #NationalFairHousingMonth!             This year, we celebrate the 53rd anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. This landmark law was signed into law on April 11, 1968, by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and family status. The Act furthers the beliefs advocated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the other heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.           “Fair Housing Month is a time to recommit to our nation’s obligation to ensure that everyone has equal access to safe, affordable housing,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “Unfortunately, housing discrimination still exists, from individuals and families being denied a place to call home because of the color of their skin or where they come from, to landlords refusing to allow persons with disabilities to keep assistance animals, to individuals being denied a place to live because of who they love. In this moment of unprecedented crisis, fair housing is more important than ever. 53 years after the Fair Housing Act was signed, our journey to justice in housing continues.”For more information on Fair Housing from HUD, click here.   

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Sachs Sax Caplan, P.L. is proud to be recognized by The Florida Bar for our commitment to hiring and developing Board Certified Attorneys.