Q. I feel that my HOA board is not taking care of the required maintenance and it has increased my fees. Can I withhold my payments and place them in an escrow account? It appears to me that the board is not providing the same services as past boards have done. They no longer trim the trees, repair roofs, produce newsletters or other forms of information of what it plans or accomplishes. I went to the manager’s office to obtain a copy of the current budget. He only allowed me a few minutes and said the proposed budget was the approved budget. When I asked for an end-of-year report, it was more of a ledger report with no cover page that identified who did the report. In the last report, the auditor was named. I feel that I am held hostage.
L.S., Pembroke Pines
No, you cannot put your fees in an escrow account. The payment of fees and the level of maintenance are different matters. Your best direction is to write a letter to the board of directors. Name specific problems that you would like serviced. News letters are not a required item, but minutes of meetings are required to be maintained in a Minute Book. You can ask to read the minutes but if you ask for copies, the board can charge per page. The elements that dictate how a HOA board conducts business activities for the members are the documents and statutes. If you feel that the board is not complying with them, then put the information in a letter and ask it to comply.
Q. The following message was sent to our members after transcribing the tape of a very long meeting. “If minutes were meant to be lengthy, they would be called hours!”
A few of the letters I receive bring humor to my column. Thank you for the “benevolent” message. But it does bring up a subject that often is asked. Minutes have one primary purpose: to record the business of the association. About the only time they will be used is when a lawsuit is involved. Did you ever hear that it is important to only answer questions and not add extra information? The minutes should not record everything said. They should only give brief information about the business conducted and how the board and members voted. Minutes should be retained for seven years. Done properly, minutes should be about one page per hour of meeting. When I do the minutes, I take the agenda and expand the scheduled items with only the necessary information.
Q. We are a part of a master condominium board. The board meets about twice a year to approve certain business. Very few members attend these meetings. We have been informed that if we add an item to new business that was not on the agenda, the motion is non-enforceable. We do not know all the business that will come up before the meeting to place on the agenda. How do we conduct business if we cannot add new business without noticing each member?
J.T., Madeira Beach
You cannot just add agenda items at the meeting. There is one exception and that is an emergency action and event; those events must be on the agenda for the next meeting to approve (ratify) the action taken. A board that does not know business needs of the association in time to produce an agenda is a poorly operated one. If a last-minute item appears, would you expect the directors to cast a wise vote if they do not take time to fully understand what they are voting for or against? I suggest that the board approve a meeting policy, which should require any owner or director to send a written letter to the board asking that an item be placed on the agenda. Those letters should be received seven to 10 days before the notice of the meeting is published. This allows the proper time to produce the meeting notice and time for the director to study the agenda items and ask questions or seek answers. The directors have an obligation to come to meetings and know what is on the agenda. If you are making business decisions, there should be no surprises.