Q: We are two condominium (FS 718) and one Master (FS 720) associations and three boards of directors. Is it possible to merge all three into one association with one governing board? I understand it would be difficult and wonder if it would be practical.
DS, Palm Beach
A: Anything is possible if you have the funds. It would require legal guidance to modify the documents and have the members vote for the change.
It is difficult to say whether it would be an advantage or disadvantage to merge the three associations into one. Each of the current associations has certain common areas and the responsibility to maintain these common elements. The new association would have responsibility over all homeowners and maintenance of the common areas.
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You need to weigh the advantages of merging the three associations over the legal cost. Most documents would not only require a vote of the owners they would also require the approval of mortgage holders. If you are trying to save money, I do not believe that that is practical.
You will still have the same cost for landscaping, insurance, utilities, reserves, and most administrative fees. I would suggest that the boards initiate a committee to study the problem. Let them evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the mergers.
Q: A unit in my condominium had a fire in January. My unit was damaged and cannot be occupied. I continue to be charged the maintenance fee. I have been told my unit will not be available for occupancy for perhaps 9 months. Can you discuss my options about having the maintenance fee lowered or eliminated while I have to live elsewhere?
MF, Jensen Beach
A: Unfortunately you must continue to pay your maintenance fees. You should have had condominium owners insurance which would pay for alternate living expenses as well as the repairs. If you have a mortgage, then you must continue to pay the mortgage each month as well. As with any financial commitment, you must pay regardless of the situations.
Sometimes these payments would be paid by your insurance. I would suggest that you contact your insurance agent to see if this is true for your insurance coverage.
Q: A few months ago, residents were given a special assessment which included mulch for the buildings. I paid the assessment; however the mulch was put by the clubhouse and the entry and all the building fronts except the courtyards at my unit.
I have questioned the president and the managing company about the lack of mulch at my home. I contend discrimination and expected results because every year we got mulch. The president says it cost more than expected; therefore the association will not mulch the courtyards. What can I do besides purchase mulch myself?
EF, Vero Beach
A: It appears that this is an annual expense and should have been included in the budget. While a special assessment could be used for an unknown expense, it should have been known that mulch would be an event each year. Your board needs to review its budget procedure to establish a more accurate estimate of annual expenses.
As to the situation of only placing mulch in some of the common areas, it shows that the board did not properly prepare the special assessment.
I can think of several reasons why the board would not include an expense in the budget and that is to keep maintenance fees low. Low maintenance fees could indicate inadequate property maintenance.
While I have no suggestion how you can force the board to mulch in your area, you now have a valid reason to seek new board members at the next election. But before that time, your board must prepare a new budget for next year. Such meetings must be open to the members and that is a time you need to become involved in planning next year’s budget. The problem you have is with the board that does not plan properly.