Condo Line

Thieves target HOA storage area

Q. I live in an HOA that has an RV storage area. Every so often our RV lot is broken into with some damage done or property stolen. The lot has a six-foot cyclone fence with three strands of barbed wire on top. The lot is well lit and the gate has a combination lock.

I am trying to get the HOA to put spiky plants on both sides of the fence to keep the bad guys out. I am meeting with a lot of resistance from the board. Also, I understand that our insurance carrier thought there might be a problem with the thieves getting hurt and then suing us for damages. What is your feeling on my idea?

C.D., Leesburg

I am surprised that the insurance company did not make you remove the barbed wire. The unfortunate fact is that the insurance company is the controlling party. You will have to do other things to discourage dishonest people from entering the area. One action is to have a roving, unarmed guard, maybe a volunteer group of the RV owners. You can ask police to increase surveillance.

While I do believe that plants with spikes or thorns are a solution, there is a drawback. When plants grow, they will shield the area from your view and allow criminal action to take place unobserved. Also, as you have indicated, the insurance company is concerned. Have you suggested a video camera system?

Q. I live in a gated community with a master association and several sub associations, including individual neighborhood HOA and condominiums. Given the difficulty of delinquencies, some owners pay the master HOA fees but not their neighborhood fees. Neighborhood boards do file liens as necessary, but since the individual neighborhoods have minimal amenities, the owners often don’t feel any hardship of not paying. If they fail to pay the master fees, they are suspended from using the restaurant or playing golf.

Is there anything in the statutes that would allow the individual neighborhoods to request that the master HOA assist the neighborhood fee collection by suspending the delinquent owners’ privileges? Or is this something that would have to be added to our master and neighborhood documents with the help of our attorney? If we do make these changes, can they then be enforced?

B.M., Broward County

The answer is very simple but it will require that the board for your community engage an attorney. Filing liens on the delinquent homes is only the first step. By the way, to properly file a lien, the board must engage an attorney. Otherwise the board can be guilty of Unauthorized Practice of Law.

The next action is to have the attorney file foreclosure action. Once the word is out that the board will take strong collections and foreclose, most delinquent owners will start to pay on time. Forget trying to work with the master association. The board has one of the most powerful tools in that it can take title to the delinquent home and put the owners on the street. There is no excuse that an attorney costs too much. Most legal fees will be added to the lien, thus increasing the delinquent amount. Even if the legal fees are never paid by the delinquent owners, this is the duty of the board.

Q. Is it proper for a board to order a reserve study for the purpose of making the advisor insert $580,000 worth of new items? While the board did vote on the new reserve study, the new items were discussed only behind closed doors with no vote in open discussion.

S.C., Miami

A reserve study is nothing more than a review by an outside professional that makes an inspection of the common areas and then prepares a report. It would then be up to the board to accept the report, modify it or ignore it.

The way the condominium statutes read, reserves must be calculated on roofing, painting and paving and any component that has a value of $10,000. Along with these items the board has a right to add others. One purpose for these additional items would be that they are not an annual expense but will need to be replaced in future years, such as a pool that needs resurfacing.

The board made a misstep in holding a financial or budget meeting in private. Such discussions must be noticed and open to the members. The next step is to hold budget planning meetings and at that time discuss the reserve study. This would be a committee format and not a board meeting.

The final step is for the board to approve the projected budget in a board meeting and send each member the projected budget to include the expense budget, reserve budget, and projected income budget. At the next board meeting the board would approve the package. At a members meeting, a motion can be made to reduce or eliminate the reserve budget. Also, if the expense budget is increased 115 percent over the previous expense budget there is a process for the members to submit an alternate budget.

Write to Condo Line, Richard White, 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., #201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115, or e-mail Include name and city.

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