When do repairs need a vote of unit owners?

Q: If the board of a condominium decides to do renovations and does not conduct a vote for approval by the owners, are the owners by law obligated to pay the assessment?

L.B., Miami

A: The condominium act requires a board to maintain the property. This is the board’s primary responsibility. If the replacements are similar in nature to the items being repaired or renovated, the board can take action without a vote by members. If your building needs to be painted, then the board can vote to paint the building similar colors. All should know that property depreciates; furniture and fixtures wear out and need to be replaced every few years.

The problem comes up if the board is making radical changes. In that case, it’s advisable to have the members vote on the changes.

I cannot tell you the degree of change that would require a vote by members. I would suggest that if a board wants to change or replace a common element and the replacement could be in question as to the degree of change, the board needs to seek legal guidance.

Q: I want to know if I can file a complaint against my HOA for conflict of interest for them using HOA funds to fight me about the color of my home. I have paid in for nine years. Can they use my money to fight me?.

A.R., Miami

A: There is no state agency to which you can make a complaint against your HOA. Owners have a responsibility to comply with the rules and regulations and the documents. When an owner is in violation of the restrictions, the board has the responsibility to enforce the rules. This includes legal action and the expenses incurred to enforce rules against a violator.

Boards cannot fine violators unless the documents allow fines. The enforcement of fines requires a strict fining policy. That is another question and I will not go into it today.

But what you’re asking is if they can use association funds to pay legal fees for attorney enforcement or court enforcement. The answer is, yes, they can spend association funds to legally enforce the rules.

Q: Our HOA has been in operation for 20 years but the last board did not and the current board does not enforce the association covenants. Since the covenants have never been updated, they have many references to “the developer” and “developer rights and voting.” I have addressed this to the board and always get an answer that “these aren’t really important,” or “the association overall looks pretty good so we should overlook these.” Why should we have covenants if they are not even reasonably enforced?

My question to you is what kind of phraseology would you suggest I use to try to get the board to do their job? I do not want to start a lawsuit over this.

H.M., Maitland

A: I agree with your board that modification of the documents is not necessary to remove terms that are related to the developer. They provide a historical value as to what the developer was trying to create.

If your board is not enforcing the rules, then you must attack this problem. You need to put the board on notice of its shortcomings. You do not do this by calling or talking to directors but putting your concerns in writing and mailing it to the board.

I would also suggest that you talk to your neighbors and seek their help to force the board to enforce the rules. The short answer is to elect directors that will enforce the rules and regulations.

Q: We are snow birds who come to Florida each winter. In January, there was a fire and our South Carolina condominium was destroyed. We will remain in Florida until our property is restored and have a question about continuing to pay our monthly fees. The board does not answer any questions about this monthly fee. Can you advise if we should contact an attorney?

M.F., Jensen Beach

A: I’m not familiar with the laws of South Carolina and therefore you should check with a South Carolina attorney. It would be my belief that you are still responsible to pay the fees. The destruction of the unit is not an exception for paying fees. You are still a member of the condominium.