If a Board of Directors decides to hire a third party fitness trainer, can it prevent owners from inviting their own personal trainers to use the facilities? That was the question before the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Charterhouse Associates, Lt.d, Inc. v. Valencia Reserve Homeowners Association, Inc., 43 Fla. L. Weekly D2645 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018). A homeowner had hired a friend and personal trainer to train them in the community clubhouse, but that trainer was banned after the Board adopted a rule prohibiting private trainers other than the vendor that it had hired from using the facilities.
Understandably upset, the homeowners filed a suit against the association for breach of their rights under the governing documents. Specifically, the community's Declaration, like most declarations for communities we represent, granted owners an easement of enjoyment for themselves, their family, guests, tenants, agents and invitees to enjoy and use the association's property.
The ruling ultimately was decided on the distinction between an invitee and a licensee. Typically, the determination of whether a visitor is a invitee or a licensee is dependent upon whether the visitor's presence was for the mutual benefit of the owner and the visitor, or solely for the benefit of the owner. The Fourth District also looked to the "invitation test" that was previously used by the Florida Supreme Court. Under this test, an invitee can be either a public invitee "who is a person invited to enter or remain on land as a member of the public for a purpose for which the land is held open to the public," or a business visitor "who is a person invited to enter or remain on land for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with business dealings with the possessor of the land."
...[W]hether a visitor is a invitee or a licensee is dependent upon whether the visitor's presence was for the mutual benefit of the owner and the visitor, or solely for the benefit of the owner.
The court found that by virtue of the easement granted to owners, the owners invited their personal trainer which was for their mutual benefit. The personal trainer was not there for the purpose of acquiring additional business from other community members, and as such was not deemed to be a licensee. Accordingly, the Association's rule was stricken down.
Many people move into communities because of the amenities available to them. Often, the right to enjoy such amenities includes the right to have invitees join. Whether it be a personal trainer, a yoga instructor, a golf instructor, a swimming coach, or whomever that's been hired be a member and invited to meet them on community property, your community may or may not have the ability to prohibit or restrict that. Before enacting a rule, you will need to work with your legal counsel to determine whether the vendor is an invitee or licensee.