Q. I own a condominium unit where, in 2006 at my expense, I installed hurricane shutters. I received the necessary approval from the board and complied with all inspections that were required. Now the condominium needs to do work on the exterior walls and concrete work on the balconies. They are requiring me to remove the shutters and will not allow me to reinstall them. They claim the shutters do not comply with present-day codes. The board recently approved a motion that additions and attachments to the building were the responsibility of each owner. I feel that my shutters were attached to the building before this vote and should be grandfathered in. Do I have any hope to counter this work to remove the shutters?
D.E., Wesley Chapel
The motion by the board was not a new motion. When an owner adds private property to the common area, he or she assumes the responsibility to remove it if repairs to the area are required. Removal of additions that are attached to the common area remains with the owner of the unit, since it does not become part of the common area. The same is true if an owner installed tile on the floor of a balcony. Balcony enclosures, tile flooring and shutters require each owner to return the common area to the original condition to allow workers into the area.
As to the question of not allowing you to reinstall the shutters, I cannot provide an answer. Many city and county codes for shutters and sliding doors have been changed recently. I do not know your local codes or condominium requirements. You will need to solve that question with code enforcement or your board. If the board does not allow you to reinstall the old shutters, then you must find out why they will not approve the past board’s authorization.
Q. I have recently became a member of the board and learned that a deceased owner of a unit owes a considerable amount of back fees. The board reports that a lien has been filed but the condominium’s attorney does not recommend continuing with foreclosure. The mortgage company is not interested in paying the monthly fees. The deceased’s son wants nothing to do with the unit. How do we handle this situation?
L.S., St. Petersburg
I believe that the attorney feels the legal expenses would not be recoverable, thus it would be a huge expense for the condominium. I believe that the board must try to close out the delinquent unit as soon as possible and file a foreclosure on the unit. Legal expenses would be a necessary cost of doing business. Since FS 718.116 says that a condominium’s lien is only valid for one year, maybe the attorney is not aware of the statute requirement. I have seen too many delinquent accounts sit for years only to have the account charged as uncollectable and charged as a bad debt on accounting records. If the delinquent fees reach a tipping point, they will be too high for the parties to pay. I have found that when boards take fast lien and foreclosure action it sends two messages. The first is that the delinquent responsible parties must pay or lose title to the unit. The other is to other members. It says that the board is strong and will foreclose on delinquent accounts. I would suggest that the board talk to the attorney again and find out why he makes his recommendation.Q. Our volunteer board is not equipped to evict a resident owner and assume insurance payments, property taxes, utilities and maintenance. The bank holding the first mortgage will eventually take over ownership when it forecloses. A third party would not buy the property under these conditions, nor will a renter move in knowing that they will have to vacate on a notice from the courts. Do you still stand by your recommendation to foreclose and take over ownership of a delinquent property?
It is a case of thinking both in and out of the box. The goal is to have the home start paying fees as soon as possible or generating income. There is more to the situation of a delinquent owner and the fees due the association. I have seen too many delinquent owners “play” the system. They file for bankruptcy and delay the final court order. In some situations, it takes years to end the final eviction and thus they live in the home with no expenses. I have seen delinquent owners move from the property seeming to have abandoning the home. Then they transfer the title to someone else who transfers it back to the original owner in a short period of time and they move back into the property.
As to paying for the taxes and insurance, those are expenses that the mortgage holder will pay to protect their interest. As to having a future owner pay for the delinquent fees that are outstanding, most first mortgage foreclosures eliminate all past due liens. That would mean that any buyer would not be obligated to pay. The board must establish a collection policy to take fast action.