Q. I am a former director of a Florida HOA and it has always bothered me that no minutes of any kind are taken when association attorney meets with the board. Are minutes required? What can happen if they are not? What happens if the HOA has no minutes and the minutes are requested after let’s say a case is closed and are supposed to be handed out?
Anytime a quorum of directors meets to discuss association business it is a board meeting. One of the requirements of a board meeting is to produce minutes of the business conducted. Yes, the board can meet behind closed doors to discuss pending ligation with the attorney. In such cases, the minutes can simply say where, when and who attended and a simple statement that the board discussed with the attorney pending ligation. Details are not required in any minutes. The statutes require all minutes to be filed in a minute book and retained for seven years. No state inspection will come to look at your minute book unless an owner files a complaint against the association. If you become involved in a lawsuit, the attorneys will ask to review the minute book. If your book has gaps or missing minutes, it can be a serious breach of duties.
Q. I live on the first floor of a condominium. Last week our sewer line backed up into our unit. We called a plumber and notified the president in our condominium. After the mess was cleaned up, we presented the bill to the office and they refused to pay the plumber. To free the lines, it took three plumbers to snake the line from the roof. Since the line was blocked in the area outside the unit, why should I have to pay the cost of the plumber?
J.S., Port Richey
This is more of a document question; read in your declaration the section about utility lines. In most cases, condominium units are responsible for repairs to utility lines that serve only their unit. At the point where two or more units are served, it becomes the responsible of the condominium. If your documents read the same, then you would be responsible for the repairs. If it was determined that the blockage was in a common area pipe, the condominium would be responsible. As for damage to your unit or the cleanup, that is your responsibility regardless of the source of the damage.Q. I am looking for a condominium to buy. I have found a few that have no age restrictions but have empty units at each building. I have read in your column that if a condominium complex has too many empty units, the residents have to make up the difference by paying higher association and assessment fees. I know that I can place an offer with the contingency of reviewing the HOA documents. However, is there a way that I can find out the financial health of a HOA before I take the trouble to place an offer with contingencies? I would like to know if the reserve fund is healthy or if there are plans to raise the association fee or special assessments.
C.H, St. Petersburg
All units have an owner who is responsible for payment of fees. If it is rented, then the landlord/owner is still responsible. A unit is no different whether it is vacant or occupied; the owner is responsible for the payments. However, in today’s economy, many owners have abandoned their units and refuse to pay. Most of these are in bank foreclosure and thus the unit is in limbo. Many of these units will have high amounts of fees over time and will never be collected, as the board may have delayed in collection process. In such events, all the other owners would be responsible for the total expenses of the condominium. In so many words; yes, you will pay more to cover the shortage of fees. There is a chance that in the future, those uncollected funds may be paid back to the condominium in full or part.
As for your opportunity to study the financial records, you must have the title owner make the request for the records from the board of directors and then provide the copies to you. You may even have a chance to meet with board members or a screening committee and that will be a time to further discuss the delinquencies, reserves and other financial records necessary to know before you buy.