Board refuses to pay for plumbing problem
Q: My condominium unit had a wastewater backup. I called a plumber and he unclogged the main sewer line between three apartments. This is not the first time the pipes have clogged, causing a backup of water in my unit.
This, however, was the first time the plumber reported that there was a problem in the main line, not just my pipes. I have paid the bill and sent it to the board for reimbursement. They have refused payment. I have sent a letter to the board about fixing the main sewer line, but they have done nothing to make the repairs. Now, I fear that the sewer line will flood my unit again and I will be stuck to pay for the repairs and damage. Is there a law compelling the condominium to make the repairs and pay for the damage?
A: Read your documents and find the section on common utility lines and common pipes to confirm responsibility. Make sure the plumber has submitted a written report that the backup was caused by a common main pipe. Ask him to include a solution to the problem.
Send the board a certified letter with the information and ask that they discuss the problem at the next board meeting. Talk to the neighbors above and below your unit to ensure that they are aware of the problem. Ask for their support in your request for repairs and reimbursement. In your letter, include a warning that when the next stoppage occurs, you will have the board make the repairs. If all else fails, file a small claims court case or engage an attorney.
Take necessary steps to add needed parking
Q: We are a small condominium with limited parking. When the developer turned over the property, it agreed that we were short of necessary parking but did not do anything to add parking. The unfortunate matter was that the board accepted the turnover without receiving anything in writing or the funds to improve the parking problem. We have space to increase parking, but our board does not seem to know what to do or how to pay for the new spaces. Where do we go from here?
A: Forget the developer. It would take too much time, effort and funds to sue the developer. You will need three things: an estimate of the costs, a plan to collect the funds for the addition and the approval of the members to make the addition.
You will need approval most likely from the city or county for the addition and required permits. The addition of parking is not necessarily a major construction problem if you have the available land. Check your documents to determine their requirement for a capital improvement. More than likely you will need to call a members' meeting to vote on the issue. Once the members approve the additional parking, the board has the right to impose a special assessment and take appropriate action to add the parking.
Reserve fund could solve ownership issue
Q: The clubhouse and other recreational facilities are not owned by the association or members. Recently, the owners offered the properties to the board for purchase. Though many of the owners were in support of having the association buy the faculties, the board wanted to delay discussion until after the summer when they said the snowbirds would return. During the summer, six inside members of the community purchased the properties. They have announced an increase in the fees we have to pay. Was this right and what can we do?
A: Unfortunately, I am not in a position to offer a solution or action that you need to take. You need to talk to your neighbors and the board to find out the future of the facilities. If the board sleeps on their duties, then the members must suffer the loss. Communities that do not own the club and other facilities will face difficult decisions when the property comes up for sale. I urge other associations facing this situation to plan ahead even to the point of establishing a separate account to build a war-chest fund to purchase at some future time. Such an account would act like reserves. It is better to plan today rather than yesterday, which seems to be the situation you face.
Clearing up exceptions to state Sunshine Law
Q: I had the impression that a quorum of a board of directors may meet in private to discuss legal matters with its attorneys, to discuss contractual, management or employee problems without violating the Florida Sunshine statutes. There is no reference to this in our rules and regulations or documents regarding special meetings. Is there such exclusion?
A: The Florida Sunshine Law (FS 286.011) does not apply to associations and boards of directors. However, the association laws have other requirements. FS 718.112 and FS 720.303 require that anytime a quorum of directors meets to discuss association business, it is considered a board meeting and must be announced and open to the members.
The only exception is when the board meets with the association's attorney to discuss pending legal action. The state does not recognize workshops or any meeting where a quorum of directors gathers and the members are not noticed or allowed to attend.
Less than a quorum of directors can meet in private, but they cannot make final decisions. All motions and business must be in the open and with proper notice.
Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him at 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., No. 201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115. Please include your name and city.