If some owners don't pay monthly fees, others must pay more
Q: We own a townhome that has a monthly fee of $325 per month. The board has increased our fee to cover delinquent owners' failure to pay. The board has just placed liens on the delinquent units after almost a year of not paying. One owner has vacated the unit, one is under foreclosure, and one owner refuses to pay. The board says they will take civil action and foreclose on the delinquent homes. This seems to be a waste of money and time. Can the board legally foreclose on our homes? If this happens and I must pay for the delinquent owners, I will also stop paying my fees.
A: In today's economy, this seems to be a way of life in many associations. Too many homes and units are not paying fees and that means the board must take legal action and increase the fees for the other owners. You must recognize that your board must maintain the common areas of your association. I assume that they are not spending your money in a wasteful way. If some owners do not pay, then the others must pay more to cover the delinquent owners' shortages. You do not want to stop paying your fees for any reason. The board can lien delinquent homes; they can then foreclose on the homes and put the owners on the street. The only suggestion I could offer the board is to lien sooner and start foreclosure action faster. I strongly suggest the board consider having an attorney take lien action after the first 60 days and then instruct the attorney to begin foreclosure action as soon as possible. If you do not pay, then you will face legal costs as well as the fees.
Present board with photos of balconies used for storage
Q: I think our board is not properly enforcing the rules because they fear that they will be sued. Our documents state that balconies are limited common areas for exclusive use by the owner. We have some owners who have converted the balcony and are using it for storage. You can see boxes and other items on these balconies. In one case, the items extend beyond the rail and extend over the edge of the building. Our documents state that balconies cannot be used as a storage room or a clothesline to dry wash. I have asked the board to discuss the rule enforcement at a board meeting but they refuse to put it on the agenda.
A: Take pictures of the balconies you reference. Write a letter to the board with the pictures. Ask them to start enforcing the rule and clean up the balconies with boxes and other storage items. Explain to them that if an owner sues the association, chances are that it will not be for enforcing the rules but to the contrary for not enforcing the rules and cleaning up the building's appearance. The board is obligated to enforce the rules.
Enforcing 30-day suspension from the common areas
Q: We have a willful violation rule that calls for a 30-day suspension from all common areas and a fine. Since these people are suspended from common grounds are they also suspended from meetings because they cannot go on common grounds?
A: I would not worry about restricting these residents from meetings; that is the least of your problems. You must take stronger actions by turning the matter over to your attorney and let him continue the enforcement. If necessary, then have the attorney file a court action to force the violation.
Board should keep owners informed of major expenses
Q: Is there a spending limit to what the board can spend without consulting the members? Our president and board spend in excess of $20,000 without consultation. It involves engaging an engineering firm to supervise a structural problem.
A: The board has an obligation to maintain and operate the association and common areas. They are not limited to costs or expenses and do not need to seek member approvals. It is their responsibility to properly budget and assess the members for the necessary operations. I suggest that seeking professional advice is a proper way of operations. It is expensive but the lowest cost or cheapest price is not necessarily the best solution and often times results in future expenses faster than they should occur. That can result in higher costs than doing the job correctly in the beginning. No, the board is not obligated to have member's approval but the board should keep the owners informed of all major operations and all expenses.
Developer running subdivision has right to modify documents
Q: I have a question about deed restriction changes. I live in a developer-run subdivision. I was digging around on the homeowners association website and found an amendment to our declarations and restrictions that were filed by the developer in March. To my knowledge, none of the homeowners was notified about this amendment. I am wondering if there is any requirement that the developer who is on the HOA board send a notification when they amend the deed restrictions, and if there is, what action needs to be taken to get them to notify the residents. We do not have any control or vote about what goes on in our subdivision, but shouldn't they be required to at least tell us what they are doing when they make legal changes that affect all the current and future homeowners?
A: Though the developer has control of the board and the association, he has the right to make modifications to the documents if the documents allow it. He should keep the current members aware of changes. He needs to send a letter to all owners with a copy of the change. He also should advise them to add the changes to their set of documents. You should copy the amendment from the Web page and add it to your documents. In addition, send a letter to the board of directors and the developer, and ask that in the future a copy of any changes to the documents be provided to members.
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.