Q. Some weeks ago you mentioned a law that allows management companies to go onto individual property to clean them up. Can you send me the name of this law and tell me how difficult it is to implement? Also, we have been having trouble with our management company for several years. We have not had a general membership meeting in over seven years. The problem mostly consists of Phase II, which is owned by a company that is out of state; it has about 2 votes to our l vote. We would like to have some say and input into this community, but all we get is “no” answers from management.We get no response from them to set up meetings. Is there not a law stating management must have meetings with homeowners to inform them on their community? All homeowners are tired of this company.
J.B., Palm Beach
What you describe appears to be a developer-controlled association.As to going onto property when the owners are not keeping them up, this is called “Self-Help”. It is not a law, but a legal procedure. Keep in mind that most lots are private property. While the statutes and many documents allow the board to enter and make repairs, it does not have the right just to walk into the private lot or unit to make repairs or perform inspection without proper communication. There are legal actions that must be taken first.
I recommend that the board first contact the owner and ask him or her to repair or clean up the property. I suggest that the board has the association attorney draft the communications and advise the board.
You say that you have not had an annual meeting for years. Your association must have a board of directors that is responsible for the operations. In the case of a developer, he or she still must have a board as well. The manager works for the board and has no responsibilities, only duties. I suggest that you address a letter to the board of directors and ask it to comply with the law and have an annual meeting each year. You can send it to the manager with instructions to forward it to the board. The developer must wear two hats, one as the developer and one as the board of directors. Being developer does not excuse him or her from the responsibility of the association.
Q. I am a condominium owner and have been paying all my fees for 14 years. I recently went to the bank to get a home equity loan. My credit score is over 800 but I could not get a loan because 30 percent of the people in our condominium are not paying maintenance fees. I am being punished rather than the dead-beats. The bank says it is not a secure loan because of the high delinquency rate. Is there anything we can do?
D.P., Fort Pierce
Get involved! When was the last time you attended a board of directors meeting? Did you vote in the last annual meeting and did you vote for the current directors? Do you follow the actions and decisions of the board of directors? Your problem is that the board is not performing its duties to control delinquencies. When you and your neighbors do not monitor the actions of the board, then the directors will take the easy way out. The statutes provide the most powerful tools to keep delinquencies low. The board can put liens and foreclose on the delinquent units and put the owners on the street. This can be done in just a few weeks or months. Then the unit can be resold or refinanced.
You have another problem. That is, if some of the owners are not paying fees, then you are paying their share to operate the condominium. Delinquencies do not happen overnight. When you have 30 percent, as you describe, that could mean that some of your neighbors may not have paid their fees for months or even years. You need to write the board and ask it why it has not engaged an attorney, filed liens and started foreclosure actions against the delinquent units. It is your duty and responsibility as well as your neighbors to monitor and force the board to properly operate.
Q. My neighbor and I are planning on running for positions on the board of directors of our condominium associations. We both agree that what we have seen from the current board over the past years indicates the need for some new and fresh ideas. However we do not agree on one issue and that is whether condominium associations are required to operate within the provisions of sunshine laws. My neighbor insists they do. His basis is that he belonged to a homeowners association that worked strictly within the provisions of the law. R.P., Sun City Center
The Sunshine Law, FS 286.011, applies to government and not HOA, cooperatives or condominiums. However, although the sunshine laws do not apply to associations, association statutes do have similar requirements. What the association statutes say (FS 718.112, FS 719.106, and FS 720.303) is that anytime a quorum of directors meets to discuss business, it is a board meeting and all owners are allowed to attend. Less than a quorum can meet in private to conduct business but cannot approve actions that have not been approved at a board meeting held in the open. Good examples of a private meeting could be when two directors meet to sign checks for expenses that have been approved. Another could be that two directors meet with a vendor to verify work or have a meeting with the manager. T If there is a quorum, then all discussion must stop and be referred to the next board meeting. While it is not a statute requirement, proper communication with the owners is very important for actions taken within these private meetings. There is one exception to the above. If the association is in litigation, the board may meet in private with the attorney to discuss pending legal action.