Can a board require hurricane shutters?

Q: Does Florida law allow a condominium association to require unit owners to install and maintain storm shutters? Can owners who have shutters be required to pay a special assessment due to damage to units that have not completed the installation of storm shutters?

S.L., Aventura

A: This is a very timely question as we begin the hurricane season. Several factors allow the board to require storm shutters for every unit. Your insurance company may require this improvement. The county and local code enforcement offices may require this improvement. Your location and proximity to the coastline are important factors in this requirement.

The short answer is yes, the board can require installation of shutters, but it should seek legal guidance to force this improvement.

As to the question concerning some or all of the unit owners paying a special assessment: With little exception, all unit owners must pay for damage repairs.

Since we’re talking about hurricane preparedness and other disasters, it’s time for the board to start thinking and planning. All owners should also start with emergency planning.

It’s been a few years since Florida has experienced a major storm and we tend to be complacent about emergency procedures. Each owner is responsible for preparing for emergency situations for their personal property and life. The board of directors is responsible for the preparation for the building and common areas.

If there is any question regarding either party’s actions, you must immediately seek legal guidance.

Q: Our homeowner association elects a board of directors, which in turn elects the president. Our covenants say that we must use Robert’s Rules. Our president talks on motions, debates with the board of directors, and says that she can speak anytime on anything. In past articles, you said that the president is not bound by these rules. This is confusing to me, as all books on Roberts Rules say she cannot speak unless she turns a meeting over to the vice president. Can you clarify this question?

S.P., Miami

A: Let me first address “orders of powers.” When there are conflicts in documents, statutes, or “policies/rules,” the highest order prevails. It starts with the U.S. Constitution, federal laws and statutes, state constitution and laws, association documents, and policies and procedures. Robert’s Rules falls last in this order of power.

The fact is that most board of directors meetings for association business do not fall under Robert’s Rules. These meetings do fall under the state statutes wherein most officers, including the president, are first elected as directors by the members and therefore have every right and duty to discuss any agenda items.

Therefore, since the president was elected as a director first, at a board of directors meeting he or she is acting as a director first. Just because she has a title of president and may be chairing the meeting do not limit her rights and duties to talk and vote on agenda items.

The board has every right to establish meeting policies that conflict with Robert’s procedures. Robert’s in fact allows meeting policies to be established. Robert’s Rules are not written in concrete but do allow alterations of operations. Rather than try to apply Robert’s Rules, I suggest your board follow the state statutes.

Q: Should the board of directors of the homeowner association have a list of contractors and services that the homeowners can trust?

L.J., Port St. Lucie

A: I rarely recommend that a board create a list of contractors to provide services, repairs or replacements for the owners. If board members feel that they need to create such a list, they should establish requirements for repairs and replacement that comply with the documents to include styles, brands, color, materials and other such requirements.

But under these conditions, I would recommend the list include a number (three or more) who will guarantee that they will comply with the association’s rules and quality of work.

The reason is a potential liability problem. Let me give you an example. I had a manager’s office policy that we did not provide contractors for unit owners’ repairs. But, with the board’s instructions we prepared a list of more than three contractors who could do repairs and replacements, with the notation that the owners could use their own contractors but must comply with the documents and rules.

The office secretary had a friend who made repairs but was not on the list of suggested vendors. She recommended this contractor to one of the owners, and this unapproved contractor did a lousy job. That owner sued the association because the association “recommended” the contractor.

If the board has a list of contractors, caution must be used to reduce its liability. I do not think it’s a good idea for the board to recommend contractors.