Condos

Can homeowner challenge new open-door policy?

Q. Recently the board of directors of our homeowners association amended our bylaw that requires garage doors to be closed at all times except when we’re leaving or entering the garage. We are a large family with different working hours and usually leave the garage door open during the daylight hours. This change will require a constant opening and closing of the door.

We don’t feel that the board has the authority to dictate the opening and closing of our garage door, as it is attached to our home. We feel that we are being targeted with this new rule and wonder whether it is within our rights to object it.

S.S., Miami

A. First you need to find out from the board why it passed the new rule. Write a letter to the board and ask why this new rule was necessary. My guess is that the reply will be that it is a security issue or architectural policy. Leaving the garage door open can invite criminals into the area.

I have experienced wild animal problems as well as domestic cats entering an open garage. While I keep the garage door closed most of the time, I have found possums, raccoons, snakes, as well as roaches and other insects in the garage to escape the heat.

You may live in a neighborhood that is very safe, with few criminal events, but when you leave your garage open it is an invitation for unauthorized entry into your home.

Q. Our condominium association is an over-55 community. One of our owners is under 55 but permits her mother, who is over 80, to live with them, and one of her sisters, who is 50 and is bipolar, to reside in one of the units. The daughter who lives with her has constant legal problems. Her behavior on the property raises eyebrows. The police are called often by the mother because of the daughter’s confrontations.

What options does the association have to remove the daughter from the premises because of the disturbances to other owners? We can find nothing in our documents that addresses a situation such as this.

R.R., Winter Haven

A. Before you take any action you need to determine your legal liability. Contact the association attorney to seek proper legal solutions. This is a person with a disability, and there are laws that protect her. Unless she is causing damage to property or threatening other people, you need to let the mother take care of the problem. I hope that the mother is helping her medical condition.

The board should not take action without legal guidance.

Q. Who can I contact at the state of Florida to get homeowners association information? I cannot afford an attorney, and every time I ask a question of the board I get, “the attorney said...” I wanted to be a member of the budget committee, and I was told by the president that only he and the secretary are on the budget committee. They have done it together for so long that it is very quick to go through the budget.

L.L., Naples

A. There is no state agency for homeowners associations. However Florida statutes can be downloaded; go to www.leg.state.fl.us and follow the link to the statute you need: Condominiums, FS718; cooperatives, FS719; and HOA, FS720. Another statute that is important is the Corporation Not For Profit, FS617.

All members of all associations and all board members need to understand the statute that is related to their association. In addition, all members need to understand the association documents.

Board meetings and committee meetings have different requirements. Budget committees must be open to all members. If the board is paying bills that are in the budget or were approved at board meetings, that is not a budget committee, simply a byproduct of being on the board. Anytime a committee is formed to calculate future budgets, notice must be given of that meeting and it must be open to the members. You can find more information in the statutes.

Write to Condo Line, Richard White, 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., #201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115, or e-mail CAMquestion@cfl.rr.com. Include your name and city.

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