Q. The county fire marshal [inspector] has required that a non-commercial household electric stove in our community clubhouse must have an exhaust hood with venting to the outside. Every unit in our condominium has similar stoves with no venting. My review of Florida’s fire code says that community rooms with less than a 50-person occupancy can be exempted. I am reluctant to approach the fire marshal’s office for the fear of undesirable consequences. Is there an appeal procedure specific in the code? What has been your experience in regard to this problem?
I must cut you off with any thought of fighting an inspector’s complaints. Not only will you spend lots of time, if you go to court to complain, the judge will require that you pay court costs up front.
Of the many times that I had to make corrections to a fire inspector’s report, one comes to mind. The inspector required that we install fire sprinklers in the building. The costs would have exceeded $250,000 and the board balked. The monthly inspection by the fire inspector issued several complaints and finally required us to go before a judge. The first court costs were $125 but there were two more hearings at $125 each as the judge ruled for us to install the sprinklers and report back installation progress.
It is best to accept any complaint and do the work.
Q. At our HOA board meeting the president allows any homeowner to speak out whenever. Are HOAs governed by Florida Sunshine Law? Can homeowners be permitted to speak out at board meetings with or without permission?
R.B., Port St. Lucie
Florida Sunshine Laws do not apply to associations. They only apply to government bodies and to secret meetings. However, the condominium and HOA statutes do have sections that allow members to talk at meetings. The statutes say that any member can talk on any agenda item for three minutes subject to rules established by the board.
If your board and president are not controlling the meeting, then they are not using good procedures. To better understand how a meeting is to be conducted, http://talkwithcam.com/?m=200802 is a start.
Meetings need to be planned and controlled. An agenda is the roadmap and should not be changed. The posting of the agenda along with the meeting notice should provide members knowledge of the business to be conducted. Members should not interrupt the directors during discussion. Then, with approval of the chairperson, members can address the board for three minutes only about the agenda item under discussion.
It is an art to be a good chairperson and control meetings. I am not sure how you need to introduce your board to better meeting procedures, but one way is to have a CAM or attorney provides guidance.
Q. I was the vice president on a board that had an internal disagreement between the directors. The president was out of town for an extended time. I called a special board meeting to resolve the disagreement.
Our secretary called the president and notified him of my instructions. He told the secretary to cancel my meeting. Was that an illegal act? I quit the board and vice presidency but now want to volunteer to be a candidate again. I would appreciate your guidance.
R.A., Bayonet Point
I have often said that disagreement between board members results in better decisions by the directors as it makes each side come up with better answers. Next time do not resign but stay and fight for what you feel are the right decisions.
The answer is that a majority of the directors rules, not the officers. As VP you had a right to ask the other directors about scheduling a special meeting. Keep in mind that the directors have the responsibility to operate the association; the officers only have duties. As such, a majority of directors voting makes the final decisions.
If the president vetoed the meeting, then he had the support of a majority of the directors.