Q. A member of our condominium was permitted to install a small wooden ramp to allow the handicapped member to enter his unit. Directors approved the addition. Another director is complaining that the documents specify that no changes to the exterior and common elements can be added. He wants the wood ramp removed. The director is threatening to sue the board if the ramp is not removed. We realize that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require reasonable accommodations must be made for handicapped members. What is the best way to handle this situation?
The board and association should make every reasonable attempt to accommodate a request for modifications to help handicap requests. Let us look at the word “reasonable”. A request to install an elevator outside the building to allow the handicap owner escape from using stairs may be unreasonable because it would alter the exterior of the building. A request to install a big ramp across a catwalk or hall could be unreasonable if it blocked the walk or could be a block for a fire evacuation. A small ramp that does not create a blockage or trip hazard should be allowed. It should be at the handicapped owner’s expense and removed if the owner sells his unit or no longer needs the ramp again, at his expense.
An attorney advised me many years back if a handicapped owner makes a request, the board should approve it as soon as possible if it did not create a hazard or defaced the property. In addition he advised me that any expense to install the apparatus would be at the handicapped’s expense. However, if a request to install a device or safety item that was of limited expense and other members of the community would have use of the addition, the board should approve the request and pay with the association’s expense. An example is a handrail at the swimming pool or a safety rail at steps where the funds is say no more than a couple of hundred dollars. Anytime modification or repairs are made to the building, then handicapped issues should be considered. As an example, if you are repaving the front drive, why not add a ramp to allow wheelchairs to more easily enter the building? I would suggest that you seek advice from the association attorney and maybe the fire inspector for any ramp that may block the walk.Q. I have a question regarding my homeowner association (HOA) and the inconsistencies of its management. Who would I contact regarding its responsibilities, as to the minutes and details of all meetings? Are there records of the hearings, architectural reviews and the recommendations of other owners? I have questions regarding board meetings and how they are conducted. Can you help me find this information?
It is good that you are concerned how the board and association function. However, you must read your documents first. While the state statute, FS 720, defines the legal duties and your rights to view the records, the board can establish policies for such searches of the records. Sources for information on how associations operate and their duties can also be found from the Community Association Institute (CAIonline.org). A simple explanation is the board must operate as a small business and not a Mom and Pop shop. You want to attend board meetings and observe. Take notes of discussions and decisions you do not understand and write the board and ask for explanations. Remember, the directors are volunteers and your neighbors. You need to take an attitude of wanting to learn and not take an aggressive action. In your area, there is a CAI local chapter and its site will help you locate the chapter so that you may attend meetings. In addition, many attorneys have seminars throughout the state. Your local CAI chapter may be able to provide the schedules for all meetings and seminars.
Q. I am a shareholder in a cooperative of about 400 units. I am told that we have a reserve account of about $900,000 but no member has seen a bank statement or any financial report to confirm the funds. Several members have requested the information without any success. In fact, a couple of directors have made the same request but the signing members will not allow the information.
W.S., Ft. Pierce
While cooperative members can read in FS 719.104 that official records must be released to the members upon request, condominium and HOA have similar statute requirements. The board is obligated to provide a financial report to each member that requests the report. Your first step is to send a certified letter to the board of director and request an inspection of the latest financial report to include the reserve accounts. The board has 10 days to allow the review. If the board does not allow the inspection, it can be fined.
You also have other options. You can file a complaint with the state, file a lawsuit, start a recall or start mediation. In addition, the other directors can, if they have a majority, vote in new officers at any board meeting. Each year the board must call an annual meeting to elect new directors. You and the members who are concerned must step up and become candidates to serve on the board and eliminate the directors and officers that are not cooperating. The board is obligated to provide a financial report to each member that requests the report. You must press the issue.