Q. Our townhome development has an active board that does a good job of enforcing the rules and regulations except for one issue. Our documents restrict overnight parking at the clubhouse parking lot. Enforcing this admittedly impractical rule was abandoned many years ago. I asked the board why the documents have not been amended. The answer was that it would take 75 percent of the members’ approval and many of our members are scattered worldwide. It seems that we are setting a bad precedent by enforcing some rules and winking at others. What is your thought on what we should do with this situation?
E.H, St. Petersburg
Your point is well taken about non-enforcement of some rules. There is a way to seek approval of a document requirement by Limited Proxy. Anytime you amend the documents you should engage an attorney to help. That will involve a legal expense and much work and effort. However, I suggest an alternate method that may help. The board can adopt a rules enforcement policy and in that policy they can exempt the enforcement of the parking violation described. The interesting thing about policies is that they can be changed or modified at future meetings by a simple board vote. While the parking restriction is on the books, the policy would only alter the rule, but could reinstate it later with a simple vote if necessary.
Q. We are a self-managed HOA. We have several homes with foreclosure action pending. One had declared bankruptcy, thus preventing collection action by our board. The previous board did file liens on these properties when the homes stopped paying and did take aggressive action advised by the association attorney. The past boards did not start foreclosure action because the attorney recommended waiting for the bank foreclosure, which has not happened yet. Here we sit with liens that were filed a few years ago on these delinquent homes. Our attorney has advised us that the liens are still valid and we do not need to file an updated or new lien. One of our outspoken homeowners, an attorney, believes that we should re-file every year. I would value your opinion on this question.
D.A., Sun City Center
A majority of the time I recommend that you follow the advice of the association attorney. I feel that you do not need to file a new lien because you are a HOA under FS 720 and thereby your attorney’s advice should be followed. Condominiums have a different problem in that FS 718.116 says that if no collection action is taken within one year, the lien is ineffective. I am sure that your outspoken owner is confused by the condominium act and thinks that it overrides the HOA act.
Q. I read in your column that you cannot show DVD movies in the community clubhouse. If we buy a DVD, it is ours and we should have a right to let our neighbors see the movie. Why should we have to pay a company to allow us to view our own DVD? Where is this company located? I have never heard of such a company. A group of our neighbors go to the clubhouse once a week to see a movie. We do not charge any fees except that someone brings a big bag of popcorn and others bring drinks. It is a social even that brings our neighbors together. You now are taking away our social event. How do you justify your position?
H.O, South Florida
I did write about this situation recently and you cannot show movies without a special license. Here’s why: When you buy or rent a DVD or a music CD you are not buying the rights to the movie or music. Those rights belong to the artists and copyright owners. I would also include books, newspapers and even television productions, as they also have copyright protections. A buyer of a media format such as a CD or DVD does not buy total rights, just limited usage rights.
Do you remember Napster? It operated a web page where users could download music from other users. Around 2000 the company was sued in federal court, Napster lost and then was basically put out of business. The suit was brought by the Recording Industry Association of America when it was discovered that the amount of downloaded music was larger than sales of the same songs by retailers. Movie industry copyrights are enforced by the Motion Picture Licensing Corp. It address is P.O. Box 66970, Los Angeles, Calif. 90066. If you like movies, then you should be happy to support the actors by protecting their works.