Can homeowners association donate to charities?

Q: I live in a homeowners association that is one of a number of associations separately run with individual boards, all under the umbrella of a master association. The master association takes care of streets, sidewalks, entry gates, security and other mutually shared expenses. The master association includes a representative from each individual association.

Recently, one of the representatives casually mentioned being a chairman of a committee that gives money to charity for the master association. It caught my attention because it has nothing to do with maintaining the homeowners associations. When I asked, the master association would not return my calls or give me the budget. We did get a summary of the budget from our association manager but it did not include any miscellaneous expenses. Ultimately we were told that the expense questioned was under office supplies.

Wondering about all of this, we went to the master association office and asked for a copy of the latest complete financial statement and master homeowners association bylaws with the amendments. We were rebuffed at all turns.

We sent a certified letter again asking for this information, but instead received a phone call from the master association board president again saying that we were not privy to it because we were not “members.” We were told that “members” referred to those people sitting on the master board.

Florida statutes certainly seem to indicate that all individual members have a right to these documents and the master board is obligated to present them. To the lay person the statutes seem to indicate that an umbrella organization is not shielded from any obligation to provide the information that the statutes require.

Is this information privy only to members of a master association?

We would like you to discuss: (1) Are all homeowners entitled to this information, or only the representatives on the board of the master association? (2) Are master boards allowed a certain amount of discretionary funds to use on nonassociation projects of which individual association members are unaware? (3) Would funds used on non-homeowners association projects be considered a breach of fiduciary responsibility?

T.L., Palm City

A: I cannot think of any reason why you are not a member of the master association. As such, you should be entitled to review all financial and budget records.

I suggest you send a certified letter to the board asking to review the records. If you want copies be prepared to pay for them — the board has a right to charge you a copy cost for each page. You need to be very specific in what records you want to view or copy. Do not ask for all financial records for the year but ask for expenses concerning charity donations or such.

The board must make available copies of the association documents, including the bylaws, at a cost.

As to donating to charities, I do not recommend it as an action by the board. Maintenance fees should be strictly for association operations and maintenance.

Q: I am a new board member. My question is when can a president and vice president have a closed meeting without other members? I thought that close personal meetings were to include board members. Our board members were not even told about such meetings. If they did not post a notice nor notify the other directors, is this an illegal meeting?

T.C., Miami

A: More than likely this was a legal meeting. It all involves quorum. Condominiums need to refer to FS 718.112 and homeowner associations refer to FS 720.303, which discuss quorum requirements.

Any time a quorum of directors is present at a meeting, it is considered a board meeting and must be open to the members. However, less than a quorum of directors can meet in private. If you have five or more directors, then two of the directors may need to conduct association business. That would mean that the president and vice president may meet in private.

Many times such private meetings are necessary to complete day-to-day activities. It could be to sign checks, discuss upcoming repairs, perform inspections, even discuss pending litigation, as well as other association business.

The key is that the board, not the officers, must make any final decisions. Your answer depends on whether you have five or more directors. If you do, then the meeting is legal.