Q: In a condominium when no election of the board of directors is required, do the unit owners have a voice in choosing the officers, or does only the new board vote for the officers?
A: The directors should have a board meeting just after or within five days of the annual meeting to elect the officers. It is usually called an organizational board meeting. The agenda for this meeting should have only two orders of business: the elections of officers and the schedule of the next board meeting. Only the directors vote for the officers. Sometimes the new officers may establish agenda items for the first board business meeting. But with the limited agenda, the meeting should last only a few minutes. I suggest that immediately after the annual meeting is adjourned, the newly elected directors seat themselves at a board table and this way the members can observe the election of the officers. I suggest that either the outgoing president or the manager, acting as the chairperson, call the board meeting to order, call the roll of the new directors and move to not read past minutes or any other business except the election of the officers. The votes are the only time the directors can vote in private by written ballot. There should be four officers elected: president, vice president, treasurer and secretary. A single director can be elected to hold two positions if you have a three-director board. Once the election of officers has been completed, the chairperson should turn the meeting over to the newly elected president to act as the chairperson. However, sometimes they appoint the opening chairperson to complete the meeting.
Q: I live on the second floor of a condominium, and I have only a front door to get out of if there is a fire or I must jump out the back window. Is there a law to make the association meet to discuss this problem with the owners? I would like to have a balcony built at my expense if agreeable to all owners.
A: Changing the condominium building common area would take a vote by all the members. No, there is no law for existing buildings that would force the association to make the changes you describe. While there is a Fire-Life Safety Code, most times it would not force the addition of a balcony or such unless the Fire Inspector required a second exit. If you have an outside catwalk you face different requirements from an inside hall. Your major problem usually is the smoke and heat, not the fire. Maybe you can ask the board to have the fire department come and talk to the members. They can help with an exit plan and provide advice for your specific building.
Q: We received a letter from the board of directors telling us that all landscaping planted by residents will be torn out or cut down. Several owners who planted their flowers and hedging are now letting them go to weed. My question: Is there any agency that we can go to for help keeping the plantings?
A: No, there is no agency or organization that can help. Simply put, your condominium has common areas that no owner and directors have the right to alter. Your board was in error when the new plantings were not stopped. Now the current board should restore the common areas to their original conditions. However, there is a way to allow such landscaping; at a members meeting, the members, not the board, can approve the additions. Keep in mind that tastes differ; a rose garden is attractive to some, but not to others.
Q: We live in a resident-owned mobile home park cooperative and wonder if two projects there would fall under the rules for capital improvements, requiring membership voting. One is a replacement of a functioning but antiquated propane pool heater with a geo-thermal one, and the other improvement involved rip-rap around our ponds where there is erosion involved.
A: If the changes only replace an existing system with a similar system, it is maintenance and not a capital improvement. Dollar value has nothing to do with the question. I have seen where the board added a single parking space at a cost of $900. Because it was not there before, it was considered a capital improvement. I have seen a building replace the air-conditioning tower and chillers at a cost of more than $150,000, but because it was replacement of a worn-out system it is maintenance. In your situation, it appears these projects are not capital improvements and the board is responsible for approving the work.
Q: I own a unit in a 12-unit condominium. Two members of the board (out of three) pay only about half their maintenance fee. The rest is considered compensation for their work managing the building. They are not CAM licensed managers, and they list this as board expenses in the annual report. Is this legal?
A: Florida Statute 781.112 says that a director shall serve without compensation unless it is so noted in the bylaws. You need to check your documents to see if they allow compensation for services. If the directors have been charging the association for their services, only out-of-pocket expenses should be listed for payment reimbursements. The same section says that the fees must be paid by all members as listed as their percentage in their documents. They are responsible for the total fees, and if they have not been paying the full share, they must reimburse the association for the shortage. Yes, in order for a person to receive compensation for management services in Florida, they must be licensed as a Community Association Manager (CAM). Compensation covers a wide area of values received. The partial fee not paid is considered compensation. So in brief, they must pay their full fees. If they have out-of-pocket expenses, the association should pay them as an expense. You need to read your documents to see if they allow any other payments.
Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him at 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., No. 201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115. He cannot provide personal replies by mail, but you can e-mail him at CAMquestions@cfl.rr.com. Please include your name and city.