Condos

Setting fines no way to enforce rules

Q: Our condominium does not have any options in the by-laws or other documents to fine a person. The only action we can take is to deactivate their key card to the clubhouse and pool.

We have a snowbird who left his vehicle in a guest parking spot with a lock on the brake. He left the keys to the vehicle with a maintenance person, but with the brake lock the vehicle cannot be moved. This will prevent us from doing maintenance on our parking lot. He also left his bicycle locked to the railing on the second floor outside his unit. He was a past board member and posted signs on unit owner’s doors last year telling them nothing was to be locked to the rails as this violated the fire code.

Since we have no way of fining these owners, and deactivating their key card while they are gone does not do anything to punish them, can we accumulate the days of violation and enforce it when they come back? We have sent a registered letter addressing the issues, but haven’t heard from them. The other owners are upset and want the bike moved immediately. Can we cut the lock and have the maintenance person, who has permission and a key from the owner to enter his unit, place the bike in the owner's unit?

If there is a tropical storm or hurricane, we will have no choice but to cut the lock and move the bike for the safety of our residents and the protection of our building.

D.H., Fort Pierce

A: I rarely recommend fines to force owners to make rules violation corrections. The main reason is that if an owner fails to pay the fine, the only way you can collect is by court order. If you must go to court then I recommend you take the direct method of rules enforcement by legal action.

Since the bicycle and car are personal property the only way that you can cut the lock is by a legal action called “self-help.” I would send one additional certified letter to the owner telling him that if he doesn’t solve the problem of the car and the bicycle that you will take legal action and remove the two vehicles and charge his account with the legal expenses.

Then contact the association attorney for guidance on self-help to remove the bicycle and the car. The board has every right to take any and all action including legal action to foresee correction to the violations.

Q: I am a new board member in a small condominium. Could you give me the formula and/or source to determine the amount of reserve dollars required by law? Additionally, is there printed material that you would recommend to cover the basics of law and procedure for operating an association?

R.B., Orlando

A: You need to read and understand your documents. You need to obtain a copy of the state statutes that involve your condominium. Condominiums are regulated by FS 718 and FS 617 along with other statutes and regulations. Statutes can be downloaded from the state web page: www.leg.state.fl.us. You can call the condominium division at 850-488-1122 and they may be able to send you some of the documents and statutes. You should also need the Florida Administrative Code: Chapters 61F-15 through 25, 45 and 50. Reserves are not set by a percentage or figures. The state has a great budget book called “Budgets and Reserve Schedules” that can also be obtained from the division. Other sources for information include attorneys, many provide training and seminars; management companies; Community Association Institute (CAI, www.caionline.org); and many printed publications. A good source for lists of attorneys, meetings, material, and seminars can be found at www.flcaj.com. Basically the formula to calculate the reserve budget is: Estimated life divided into the estimated cost less any current reserves.

Q: I live in a mobile home community where we own the park. I have suggested several times that we should have term limits for serving on the board of directors many of the park residents agree with me. The board of directors over the years continually blocks any action. How can we have a term limit requirement?

T.H., Stuart

A: I am mystified why you cannot solve this problem. You have an election each year in which the members get the vote for new board members. If the members failed to vote or vote for the same people, it is the members’ responsibility.

The Florida statutes require an annual meeting — once a year. At this meeting you elect new directors. Also, motions can be presented and voted on by the members. Such motions should be presented to the board more than 60 days before the annual meeting in order for the board to add it to the agenda and communicate to the members. If the board refuses, all you have to do is to present a petition signed by more than 10 percent of the owners. The board must then comply by adding the motion for the members to vote at the annual meeting.

It’s not up to the board to prepare the text as that would be your responsibility. It is my belief that your problem is common in the industry today where people do not want to put in the effort, it is called apathy.

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

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