What are guidelines for condo board to reject a buyer?

Q: The board members of our condominium, as authorized in the condominium documents, are allowed to approve and disapprove unit transfers, sales and leases. Each board member has his own ideas, and we will be consulting the association’s attorney for development of a formal policy. We wanted to take advantage of your operational experience regarding disapprovals of sales and leases.

We would expect the seller and buyer to be upset with the board blocking the sale or lease of a unit. The board’s preliminary discussions have focused on disapproval of sexual predators and convicted drug dealers. Such ideas would require the board to engage a firm that does background checks and may call for compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Operationally, is it practical for the board to require the owner to conduct such a background check?

J.H., Tampa

A: The first step, as you indicated, is to seek guidance and advice from your attorney. I suggest that you set up a screening policy. Communicate the progress of this policy to the members at board meetings and publish a report in newsletters or posted on the bulletin board.

The policy could include a form that should be filled out by the buyer/renter including the selling/renting information. You don’t necessarily need the purchase contract or the lease.

The board needs to establish a committee to meet and greet the new resident. Chances are slim that you will have someone who does not qualify. When you reject someone you need to have proper documentation explaining why they were not acceptable. Keep in mind that when you reject a buyer/renter you may be faced with a discrimination lawsuit. Therefore you need all documentation properly executed.

I suggest that the committee have no more than three members and they have a one-page sheet with questions that they ask of all applicants. This one page would include standard questions that the committee asks. An example could be: Do you know our rules and regulations and have you read our documents? Another question could be: How many adults and how many children will be living in the unit?

As the screening progresses, a committee member needs to write the answers. At the end of the interview you need to have the applicant sign the one-page document confirming that the answers are correct.

Background investigations are important. Several types can be obtained. That is a question you’ll need to ask your attorney.

You need to keep your screening meeting simple, to the point, and friendly to welcome the new resident.

Q: Our management company brought in a company that proposed to work on a project in our building. The board was getting ready to accept the proposal without the benefit of any other bids. I know they are violating Florida Statutes. If they accept the bid, what consequences does the board face?

A.B., Miami

A: The board is required to bid out projects. The final selection is the responsibility of the board. It does not have to select the lowest bid. There could be other circumstances that the board may consider.

I suggest that you send a letter to the board of directors expressing your concerns about only selecting one bid. If the board does not supply a valid answer; it can be reported to the state or sued.

I once had a major construction problem that needed unique repairs. I received only one bid. The president told me to send out 25 bid requests to different contractors. I prepared 25 bid requests and sent them by certified mail, but no one else responded. Therefore the board only had one bid to review and accept.

While the board has the final responsibility, it should seek other bids to make a more intelligent decision.