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Community Living: Condo maintenance fees can't be withheld in dispute

Q: I cannot find information on a unit owner withholding monthly maintenance fees due to their dispute with maintenance of the property. Can you point me in the right direction?

A: A lot of times in the statutes or your documents you will not find the exact answer to your questions. That means you need to search for other answers and sometimes you need to have your association attorney provide an answer. FS 718.115 and FS 718.116 say in so many words that each unit must pay their share of the common expense. If an owner withholds fees because of a dispute it is a separate problem. The two issues — the failure to pay and the neglected problem — must be treated differently. Regardless of the reason the owner fails to pay, a lien must be secured and foreclosure action must take place. A complaint is not a defense. The second part of the equation is the complaint should stand on the position separately. That may mean other agencies or the courts may come into play. I would send a final letter notifying the owner that the fees must be paid and that the complaint must be handled differently.

Condo association bankruptcy unlikely

Q: If our condominium were to go into bankruptcy, what would happen to the owners who are current on all assessments and repairs and own our condos with no mortgage? Would we still be able to live in our condominiums?

A: Usually the bankruptcy courts will not accept an association bankruptcy. Their feeling is that all the board needs to do is raise the fees. But let us look at a worst-case scenario. Say more than half of your homes went into foreclosure and the fees were overwhelming for the remaining owners. It means none or few of your association services would be provided, no insurance, no repairs and no operations. You could not sell your home for a fair market value and most banks would not provide the buyer with a mortgage if you could find a buyer. In my many years of management, I have only known of one condominium that successfully declared bankruptcy. It is not really an option and you would not want to own in such a community. You need to try to convince your neighbors to help the board to solve the problem. No, you would not lose your home, but the unit would greatly reduce in value.

Changing start time of a budget meeting

Q: The board posted a meeting notice several days beforehand with a start time of 6:30 p.m. There was going to be discussion on budget issues. A couple of days before the meeting (more than 48 hours prior) the board president went to the bulletin board and scratched through the start time of 6:30 p.m. and changed it to 4 p.m. Consequently when several unit owners showed up at 6:30 p.m., they were told the meeting was over. Is there any rule of thumb for modifying the start time of a board meeting once the notice has been posted?

A: If the board was discussing the budget or future budget changes, then a mailing should have been sent to the members. In that situation a second mailing should be sent but you must keep in mind that the notices must be delivered a specific time before the meeting and this may result in a delay of the meeting. If budget changes are not considered but some type of financial matters are to be discussed and it is so noted on the first meeting notice, a new meeting notice should be posted flagged with a bold remark of the modified change. In both situations, the notice must be clearly marked as a modification.

Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him at 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., #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. Online: talkwithcam.com.

Community Living: Condo maintenance fees can't be withheld in dispute 12/05/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 8, 2008 11:45am]

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