Should condo boards make delinquency information public?

Q. When requested, do condominium board members have to provide financial information concerning unit owners who are in arrears on their fees? Our property manager feels that this is a private matter and is not information to be shared with owners. I thought it was a matter of public record and should be available.

W.C., Broward

A. Owners have a right to send a certified letter requesting financial information on delinquent accounts. However, strict credit laws limit the exposure of this information. This information should be available to owners upon request. However, the owners must be extremely cautious about disclosing the information. The board can discuss the information in an open meeting, but I recommend that they not reveal the owners’ names. Instead of saying Mr. Smith, they would say delinquency case No. 3 or similar words.

I would further recommend that the board provide information at meetings on the number of delinquent accounts — not by name or address — and the collection procedure status. For example: “We have two accounts 30 days delinquent and letters have been sent. We have one account that has a lien filed and one account in foreclosure with the attorney.”

The board should establish a collection policy that has been approved by the association’s attorney. That policy would specify how owners can obtain information about delinquent accounts.

Q. I live in Indiana but have a home in Florida in an association. After reading your columns in Florida, it appeared that my Indiana association does not follow the same laws. I called an attorney in Indiana, and he advised me that Florida has different laws involving associations than in Indiana. He invoiced the association for $85 for my phone call. The association refused to pay the bill and forwarded it to me. Where do I stand on the responsibility for this invoice?

A.H., Indiana

A. Florida has always been the leader in condominium and homeowner association laws, but all states have had similar laws. I have not studied other state laws, but my educated guess is that no owner has the right to perform an action that is an expense to the association without board’s approval, regardless of the state.

If an owner wants an answer, he or she should write to the board of directors and ask the question. The board would, if required, contact its attorneys for a legal answer. An owner acting on his own can do the same, but would be responsible for any legal cost.

Q. Our homeowners association’s treasurer puts a varying amount into reserves each month, but some months he has to take money out of the reserves to meet our operational expenses. So at the end of the year, the amount in our reserves does not match the budget. I asked the treasurer why the amount varied, but the treasurer did not have any answer.

While we have money in the reserves, I am not sure what it would cover. Our operational expenses far exceed the budgeted amount, and we will be in the red by the end of the year. The board approved a special assessment to make the shortage as small as possible. The fees were increased 10 percent this year along with the special assessment. What are our options for the future?

J.H., Miami

A. Reserves for condominiums are dictated by the law. HOA statutes are not as restrictive. A reserves study should be made to determine whether HOA reserves are necessary and whether the amounts required meet the suggested amounts. The budget should then be properly calculated to include reserves.

The monthly amount must be first paid into the reserve account and cannot be withdrawn except to meet reserve expenses. Budgets stand on their own, and if projected expenses cause an increase in the fee schedule, such increases will be made. The board of directors is required to establish an adequate expense budget and a proper reserve budget (if required).

Under HOA statutes, there is no limit on how much maintenance fees can be increased. In fact, the statutes endorse any increase necessary to meet expenses.