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Condo line: Should board hold open forum for members?

Q. We have always had an open forum at our meetings. The first 10 years, it was at the beginning of our meetings and people came. Then a property manager persuaded the board to move the forum to the end of the meeting. Now, no one comes to the meetings.

At our meeting this week, our homeowners association president announced that board members could not ask any questions at the open forum, that anything we wanted to speak about should be an agenda item. Don’t we as homeowners also have the right to speak about any item at an open forum?

R.H., Pembroke Pines

A. What is the purpose of an open forum? Is it a time for the board to receive members’ feedback? Is it time for owners to complain? Any item brought up in an open forum cannot be added to the agenda, nor can an answer be provided at that meeting.

Homeowners have the right to speak on any subject at an open forum. However, the board cannot provide a definitive answer to any question. The only thing the board can say is that it will review it and discuss it at the next board meeting or that it will get back to the homeowner in two or three days with an answer.

That leads to the question: What is the purpose of a board meeting? The board meeting is for the board to conduct business. It’s not a place or time for homeowners to present ideas or complaints. It’s the board’s decision when and where — and whether — it will allow open discussion.

The best option is to require a homeowner to send a question or suggestion to the board well in advance of the meeting so the subject can be placed on the agenda. If the board wants an open forum, I suggest that the board allow members to address their concerns after business is conducted and the meeting is closed. If the board opens discussion it is on thin ice. It is better to suggest that members send written letters, allowing the board time to review the matter.

Q. I read somewhere that the definition of association property is “All property acquired by an association after the turnover by the developer,” and for the purpose of access to and use of the same as common property. Am I correct, or is there another definition?

Also, for association personal property the definition is “Property that the association can purchase, lease or dispose of without membership approval.” Examples: office supplies, maintenance supplies, etc., which the membership has the right to access and use. Is this correct?

D.S., Vero Beach

A. You are addressing title to property. First, the association’s or condominium’s property title is established by the developer before the first unit or lots are sold and transferred.

Do not confuse personal property and real property. Each type of association will have different titles and ownership and have ownership of personal property:

▪ Cooperatives are owned by a corporation, and each unit has title by a proprietary lease (no deed) and the corporation owns all of the property.

▪ Condominiums have title and ownership of each unit by a deed in favor of the owner. Each owner has a percentage of ownership of the common areas.

▪ Homeowners associations (HOA) lots are titled by deed to each owner with a requirement to be a member of the association. The HOA has title by deed to the common areas.

All association titles were established by the developer before any owners took title to their properties. Limited common elements are those areas that have been designated for exclusive use by an owner or owners. They may include, but are not limited to, property such as parking spaces, balconies, patios and other selected areas.

I’m not sure what you mean by personal property, but members have the right to use the common elements. There are some exceptions that can be closed to members’ use, including the management office and equipment rooms. Personal property could include office equipment, such as computers and copy machines as well as other office machinery and supplies. These would not be available for members’ use.

While the association’s records can be accessed by members, they are really not open except by written request. Your documents address the answers for your association as well as the statutes.

Write to Condo Line, Richard White, 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., #201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115, or e-mail CAMquestion@cfl.rr.com. Include your name and city.

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