Q: Our condominium was one of the first in Florida, built in the 1960s. I recently became a board member and find that our finances have not been properly handled. It seems that our bylaws, established in the 1960s, have restrictions on budgets and special assessments. I have been told that current Florida statutes supersede our documents. I have also been told that in order to increase the budget and pass a special assessment, we need to modify our documents to strike the limitations on what the board can assess.
Over the past decade the building has been poorly maintained and now we need major work. It seems that past boards failed to properly operate and maintain the property, or adequately handle our finances. Owners are becoming upset and are threatening to sue the board. What do you recommend about how we can operate with the limitations in our documents?
J.K., Fort Lauderdale
A: I suggest you recommend that the board engage an attorney, CPA, and licensed management along with other professionals as needed to advise the board. With your documents being outdated, you will need to follow the condominium act for guidance for most decisions.
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From what you are saying, your past boards did not properly operate the condominium for several decades. There are two reasons for the poor operations: First, the owners did not make an effort to know what was going on and failed to volunteer, letting others do the work. Second, the board members were inexperienced and did not take time to understand the operations they are required to perform.
I would immediately engage all owners and encourage them to make suggestions rather than criticisms. Ask them to volunteer. You can do this by written communications and special meetings. Have the professionals train and guide the board members and have them talk to the members at special meetings.
There is no quick fix because you will have to review past years’ operations. I am sure that you will find a strong need to increase the budget and maybe even approve special assessments. The members must understand the past performance of previous boards must be corrected and the current board must assume that responsibility.
Q: Recently I discovered that a registered sex offender has purchased a unit where I live. There is a county park across the street. Is this illegal?
A: I am unable to provide legal guidance on this question. I would suggest that you notify your board of the situation and call either an attorney or the state attorney’s office to find out the legality of their residency. Unless your documents have strict screening policies for new residents, the board may have limited powers. It may be that the board should consider adopting a new rental policy. That would requires guidance from an attorney.
Q: The president has asked me to chair the annual meeting. I am not on the board of directors, just a member of the association. I have never chaired a meeting but have attended several as a participant. What are my duties to chair this meeting?
A: It appears to me that the president would like a neutral person to conduct the meeting. This is a good procedure. You must remember that you are neutral and conduct yourself as such. Members who attend have the right to nominate and vote on a chairman to conduct business — they may elect someone else to chair the meeting.
I suggest you obtain a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order, look in the index under Chairman and read those sections. Keep in mind that not all meetings follow Roberts Rules, which may be modified to fit the needs of the meeting. You need to have copies of the meeting notice, the agenda, and pertinent information that will be discussed. You must know how to conduct the casting and counting of votes, and the tally-taking procedures.
I would have the president open the meeting and immediately appoint you with the consent of the members as the chairperson. He should ask if there are any objections. As chairperson, you would first establish rules of conduct, say that all discussions must be approved by you and that disruptions will not be tolerated. If you take control of the meeting and follow the agenda, you should not have any problems.
Write to Condo Line, Richard White, 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., #201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115, or e-mail CAMquestion@cfl.rr.com. Include name and city.