Condos

Condo line: Is board of directors overstepping its bounds?

Q. Our community is in trouble. One member of our board resigned and our president is a snowbird. The directors left in the community are trying to operate and are making decisions that are unpopular with the members. One took it upon himself to realign the board, making himself president.

Our documents say that a special meeting should be called. We did not have the right to vote on the appointment. After making himself president, he engaged a management company. No one in this park wants a manager or to pay for the manager’s cost. Is this legal? What can we do?

E.R., Lakeland

A. This answer is based on the board’s duties, rights and responsibilities and the members’ duties, rights and responsibilities. The members elect the board to operate the association. Once elected, the board can independently make the necessary decisions to do so.

In your case, I believe the special meeting referred to in your documents means a special board meeting to fill the vacancy and elect new officers. New officers can be elected at any board meeting that is properly called. This means that any director can say, “I would like to be the president,” and if the other members of the board agree, then the old president must yield to the board’s wishes.

The board members have the authority to hire professionals to assist them in their duties and obligations. This means that the board can engage a professional manager or management company that is properly licensed to function for the board and the association. The hiring of professionals does not require the residents’ vote or approval.

There’s an old saying that managers and presidents live from board meeting to board meeting. Directors live from annual meeting to annual meeting. Thus, the members must vote at annual meetings for people to properly serve the community. If residents do not want to pay for management, then they need to become candidates for the board at the next annual meeting in the hope of reversing that decision.

Q. I live in a community that was finally built out and turned over to the members. The current HOA took authority from the developer and has since run the association with the aid of a property management group. For the most part, the board has done a good job in maintaining the look of our community. It has yet to begin enforcing of our rules and regulations, however, which is cause for concern among many residents.

I served as a member of the Architectural Review Board for the past year, and recently I was asked to participate on the newly formed “Fine Committee.” It was explained to me that the board does not have the legal authority to impose fines on residents for infractions until a fine committee has been established, and that it would be the responsibility of this committee to set a fine schedule and help identify violators.

What statute requires a fine committee before a board can enforce its own rules and regulations with fines on resident violators? What guidelines are available to our fining committee? What are the practicalities of this committee to identify violators when there is a property manager?

M.R., Orlando

A. There are a couple of directions for the enforcement of the rules and regulations. The fine committee should not be involved in inspections or the work of the architectural review committee. These are separate duties, and you can find information for homeowner associations in FS 720.3035.

The statute that discusses the fine committee is FS 720.305(2). Your documents must allow fines. The fine committee must be an independent committee that functions as a court hearing — in other words, someone other than the committee must make a complaint. The person named in the complaint has a right to defend himself or herself.

The fine committee acts as a judge and jury to impose a fine, reduce the fine or not impose a fine. However, any fine must be presented to the board for its approval. If I read your question correctly, the board expects the fine committee to inspect and impose fines outside the meeting, which is incorrect. The fine committee is highly regulated, and you need to know the statute’s requirements and limitations.

I suggest that the board seek guidance from the association’s attorney and establish an operational policy for the fine committee and a policy establishing how to inspect and impose fines. While the property manager can be of some assistance in this area, the board needs legal guidance.

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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