Q. We have a condominium owner who constantly stores personal belongings in the hallway, which is a common element. In spite of numerous requests by the board and association manager to remove the items, he continues to use this area as his own. Can these items be considered abandoned since they are no longer within his condo?
Never touch personal property! If you want to remove the items, have your attorney render advice on how to do so. Have you contacted the county fire inspector? Many times that department will issue a warning about blocking an area that can cause delays in event of a fire. Keep in mind that you need legal support, either from your attorney or other government agencies before you remove the items.
Q. I live in a condominium complex. Over the last few years residents have been building patios on common ground. My understanding is that common elements belong to all residents and that nothing should be built on them. The board will not do anything about this; the past president also has a patio. What can I do without hiring an attorney?
You are correct in that no condominium owner has the right to use the common grounds for personal use. FS 718.106 says: Each owner is entitled to use the common elements in accordance with the purpose for which they were intended, but no use may hinder or encroach upon the lawful rights of other unit owners.
You can sue the board and the owners, but that is expensive. I would first try to get the board to acknowledge its responsibilities to have the owners be declared in violation and restore the common grounds. That would require a certified letter addressed to the board of directors explaining the improper use of common grounds. Ask the directors if they have talked to the association’s attorney and insurance agent to determine the condominium’s liability. Ask them if they have received proper permits from the county or other government agencies.
You also need to plan for the next annual meeting. Depending on the action of the board, you need to inform it in writing that you want a motion at the next meeting to force the board to restore the common area by forcing owners to remove the patios. There may be some property tax liability for owners who improved their units but that will require an investigation by the property appraiser. You also need to determine if there will be maintenance costs incurred by the association by allowing the patios. You should seek records to find out who approved the additions.
Q. My condominium association funds reserves for several items in its annual budget, among them tennis courts and spa. According to the definition of “reserves,” they are for items of deferred maintenance that eventually will need attention, but do not call for recurring annual output of expenses. My board interprets the reserves to specifics within the line item categories listed. In other words, it collected a special assessment for replacement of tennis court lights instead of using the funds in our reserves designated for tennis courts and/or outside lighting. It used the same tactic to collect a special assessment for bathroom renovation in the spa, saying the spa reserves were strictly intended for exercise machine replacement, even thoughthose reserves had been used for changing the interior layout of the spa. In the absence of any written specifications for these reserve categories can the board make choices when it comes to special assessment levying instead of using those reserves? They are collecting extra money when we already have accounted for those expenditures through our reserve funding.
There are three parts to the annual budget. I like to say that really you have three different budgets because they use different computations. The “expense” budget includes normal day-to-day, month-to-month or annual-to-annual expenses. The income budget is merely the expense budget and the reserve budget combined to establish the income needed to balance the two budgets.
The reserve budget is calculated on state formulas that require specific amounts to be collected and held in special accounts for expenses that occur more than annually. The line items are to be used only for the specific line for which they were collected. As to special assessments, that is a right of the board to meet expenses that were not part of the budgets. Funds cannot be transferred from other accounts because the funds are not available. I would advise you that if the board does approve a special assessment to meet an unplanned expense, a special assessment could be proper.