Condo Line

How to deal with an unresponsive board president

Q: Recently our newly elected board made changes costing the association a substantial amount of money.

The new board has refused to give unit owners any means to contact the directors except by mail. As a result I had no alternative but to send a registered letter addressed to the president of the board. My letter was polite and requested a response to some of my concerns.

More than six weeks has passed and despite reminders the president has not responded. What options do I have to get a response to my registered letter? It is my opinion that the board should be open to giving unit owners their email address or other ways to share our concerns with the board, who should be responsible to resolve our problems. I am also given to understand that the board is required to pay a penalty if they do not respond within ten working days on receipt of a registered letter. Kindly confirm.

E.M., Miami

A: What you address can be found in FS 718.111(12) (condominiums) or FS 720.303(5) (HOA) Official Records.

I suggest that you send a second certified letter addressed to the board of directors, not just to the president. In that letter you refer to the previous letter, enclose a copy, and refer to the above statute.

In this letter you asked to review the records involving the work that you are concerned about. Be specific as to which records you want to view. Complain that the board is nonresponsive and they need to establish an alternate communication policy for the members.

While your question did not refer to the form of association, if you’re an HOA you must file your complaint in court. If you’re a condominium association you can file a written complaint with the Division of Condominiums. You must explain or try to communicate that the board needs to be more open to the members.

I would also confirm that your new board complies with the new statute requirement of certification. The certification is required for all new directors within 90 days after the election. It requires that the directors sign an affidavit or receive a certificate of attending training classes for directors. From the information provided it appears your board does not understand their duties.

One further action I suggest is that you talk with neighbors about your concerns and the failure of the board to reply. I would also ask them to send letters to the board requesting that they be more open with the members.

Q: Our board wants to change our documents doing away with the Right of First Refusal. They say we are not in the business of buying houses and if we don’t we may have to buy a house, if we refuse someone that isn’t 55 or older. Can you advise us on this situation?

E.R., Tampa

A: Your board does not understand this requirement. I suggest before they go any further, they seek an opinion from an attorney. Just because it says you have first right of refusal does not necessarily mean that you must buy the property.

It gives the right to the board to require all new residents to register with the association. It is a contractual right to be given the opportunity to enter into a business transaction with a sale before anyone else can. It is a controlling right of first refusal — the association has the right, but not the obligation, to enter into a transaction.

A right of first refusal is usually negotiated when the board wants to control how a sale is conducted and your documents give you this right. With this requirement, the board has the right to refuse any buyer or sale that does not meet the document requirements for occupancy.

If you have someone who is purchasing with the intent to occupy in your 55-and-older community, the simple fact that they are not 55 nor will they have any resident that is 55 is a valid reason not to accept or approve the sale.

It could be paramount in a situation where an owner has a dispute with the association and sells his house way below market. Say you have a home valued at $100,000 and the disgruntled owner sells his home at $20,000. It was an attempt to bring down property values but can be overridden by the board purchasing the home for $20,000.

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

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