Disagreement over paying for cable service

Q. Our association has decided to change our cable TV provider once our 10-year contract ends in December. The board had a “cable committee” make the decision based on customer service, dependability and cost factors.

I do not want to change over to the new company, and have no problem with my current service. Am I required to go along with every homeowner as a group? I do not believe that an association should force me to pay for a service I feel is going to be inferior in many ways to my current service provider. Can you advise me on my rights?

W.M., Naples

A. While the statutes allow the community to have a common TV/cable service, the final requirement would be found in your association’s documents. The situation begins with the developer when it created the community. If there were no restrictions for this service, you might see almost every home with an antenna. The developer presumably felt that such antennas would devalue the community.

A more appealing reason why the developer wanted to provide for cable service is that it allowed him to create a separate entity that he could later sell for profit to a cable company. Normally the documents require that all owners pay their share for basic TV service. As a community matures, such service contracts expire, and the board may renew them or engage another service. While you do not have to participate in the service selected, you would still be obligated to pay for the basic service.

Another option allowed by the Telecommunication Act of 1996 allows owners to use satellite TV services. The act allows the installation of the satellite dish with limited restrictions by the HOA. The act does not necessarily apply to condominiums.

The final answer: You must pay for basic cable service as part of your fees, and then you can add extra features at your own expense. Homeowner associations must allow the installation of dishes, giving each owner an option other than the cable service provided, but the owners would still be required to pay for basic service in their fees.

Q. Please clarify the requirements for an emergency board meeting when the issue is not covered in our bylaws. FS 720.303 (2) (C) mentions emergency board meetings, but my question is: What constitutes an emergency? What are the notice requirements?

S.N., Miami

A. My definition of an emergency — not the state’s or the one from the statutes — is an action to prevent injury, death or equipment damage or replacement where immediate action is necessary. To refer a issue to an emergency board meeting means it cannot wait until the next scheduled board meeting. Emergency meetings take place when the board cannot wait 48 hours to post a proper notice for a board meeting.

A couple of examples could be a swimming pool pump that burned out and needs to be replaced, or elevators that have failed and need to be fixed immediately. I have seen emergency meetings called when there was potential criminal activity in the area. Another example is when hurricane or other storm damage requires immediate action.

Any action or decisions made during the emergency meeting must be ratified at the next scheduled board meeting. At the emergency meeting, only the single item requiring urgent action should be discussed.

Q. Please advise me about visitors bringing a dog to my unit. We have a rule in our condominium of only one dog or cat per unit. Visitors would be allowed to bring another animal even if the owner has a dog or cat. I would think that allowing strange dogs in the building would open us up to liability. An owner who is there all the time would be allowed only one pet, but you if have someone staying with you, you could have two. Is this a double standard?

C.T., Tampa

A. You have a valid question, but I cannot provide a legal answer, only an opinion. I suggest that the board establish a policy that visitors cannot bring pets into the building, except for service animals. Reminding owners that they are responsible for their visitors may help enforce the policy.

Service animals can override the rules.

I also suggest that the board seek a legal answer from the condominium’s attorney.