Board elections should be held each year
Q: I live in a HOA and we have not had a members meeting since 2006. The directors elected then still operate the association, but we receive limited communications from the board. A majority of our owners have signed a letter and delivered it to the president asking for him to call a members meeting. There has been no acknowledgement of the letter. What is our next step?
A: Florida Statute 720.306 discusses members meetings and says that a meeting to elect the board must be held annually and called by the board of directors in accordance with the documents. If the members desire to call a special meeting, at least 10 percent of the total voting interests of the association must call the meeting, unless a lower percentage is stated in the governing documents. Business conducted at a special meeting is limited to the purposes described in the notice of the meeting. Since you have not had an election since 2006, I suggest that the members ask the directors in writing to call a members meeting to elect new directors. Send the letter by certified mail and include all the members' signatures that request the meeting and election.
Making town hall meeting proper
Q: We have a new board at our association that wants to operate more transparently than past boards. We now have monthly town hall meetings in which everyone can and does participate. The board presents information on projects, plans and proposed expenses for discussion. No minutes are taken, no motions are proposed, no final decisions made. We have talked to our attorney and he says we are not contravening any statutes. Do you feel we are in violation of the statutes?
A: I can only quote the statutes, which clearly state that a town hall meeting, workshop or any other name you call it, is a board meeting if a quorum of directors meets to discuss business. Here is what I would suggest to make your town hall meeting proper: Post a notice 48 hours in advance with an agenda of what subjects are to be discussed. Put in the meeting notice that the meeting will be informal and that members will be allow to discuss other subjects but no motions or final decisions will be made. Produce minutes to display just a list of items discussed with no remarks or comments; keep them simple.
Board can change meeting site
Q: Our monthly board meeting used to be held at a local venue convenient to the association that cost $85 a month to rent. The board now has selected a room that is free but is a 30-minute drive, resulting in auto expenses, gas and toll fees for the owners. Can the board change the location?
A: The board usually has the power to change the meetings to a reasonable location. I cannot answer if the change you describe is unreasonable. You could check in the area to see if anything closer is available; try churches, libraries, banks, schools and so forth. Most charge little or no fees.
Best to recalculate for reserves
Q: Our association has been in existence about 10 years. Our roads have deteriorated and some members have suggested that the reserves should be increased. The current board members are reluctant to take steps to ascertain the validity of cost and life estimates now used in setting the reserves. How frequently should such estimations be evaluated? Are there any sources our members could refer to and obtain data from to convince the board of the errors?
A: Each year during budget preparation, each line item should be evaluated. As for reserves, it is best to recast the calculations each year with a reserve study prepared every few years. Homeowners associations do not have the statute requirements that condominiums have, but they should follow the requirements as much as possible. One such guide is a book written by the state called Budgets & Reserve Schedules: A Self-Study Training Manual for Beginners. The book is free; call the Department of Business and Professional Regulation at (850) 488-1122 for a copy or access it online at bit.ly/cm1YMH.
Altering common areas
Q: We have a common road that runs between two condominium buildings. We would like to install security gates to restrict outside traffic. Our association lawyer says we need 100 percent approval to install the gates. Our documents do not address this addition. Can you provide us with information on the rules governing this?
A: I must yield to the attorney as he is more informed about this situation. For all members of associations, it is a good reminder that something that seems simple, such as adding a gate, is considered an alteration to a common area, which may come under stringent rules.
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.