Q: I live in a large condominium that has vacant apartments. It is my understanding that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been subsidizing the rent of many apartments under its Section 8 housing code. What restrictions and regulations govern this? Can condominium documents prevent this type of rental? We normally interview prospective buyers or tenants and search criminal and financial records. May we still do that for Section 8 housing?
A: This question has a two-part answer: First you must have in your documents the right to approve or disapprove prospective occupants. Second you must have a screening policy that has been approved by your association attorney and lists exactly what criteria the applicant must meet. Section 8 or any other rental or purchase assistance program should not be part of the process. However, the applicant should show income-producing capabilities to support the association's fees. What I suggest is that the screening policy have a list of published questions on a form that the applicant would be asked. The interviewer would ask only these questions, and the answers should be recorded on the question document. Since a denial of an applicant can result in serious legal matters, I strongly suggest that you involve your attorney in establishing the interview form. Subject to your documents, HUD does not have a right to put just anyone in an apartment in your building. Please have your attorney review your rights.
Q: I own a condominium in a complex with garden-style buildings. The board decided we needed to replace the roof on one of the buildings and created a special assessment of $40,000. Instead of replacing the roof they ended up only doing a patch job for much less, less than $3,000. I was outraged that we would have to pay for such a large assessment when not needed. I think the overage of the assessment should be returned to the owners. The president says they will keep the funds in an account. I do not trust my money being held by the association or management company as I am sure it will end up disappearing. What are our rights as owners to get our money back as it is not being used as intended?
A: I see two possible problems with this situation. The statutes require the board to establish reserves, one of which specifically to repair and replace roofs. If done correctly, there would not be a need for a special assessment. What happened to the reserve budget? If the board collects a special assessment, those funds must only be used for the items the special assessment targets. If they do not use all the funds, the board must return or credit the money to the unit accounts. One way is to pay each owner the excess, but I do not recommend this method as the return by check is expensive and requires extra bookkeeping. A better way is to credit each account and each member may not need to pay the full fees for a month or so. If the board needs the funds for another expense, it should approve a credit and at the same meeting approve a second special assessment for the same amount to fund some pending project.
Q: Are boards of directors allowed to vote on issues online without holding a regular meeting?
A: No. However, there is one case where the directors can vote online, and that is in event of an emergency. If this takes place, then at the next meeting the motion must be on the agenda and the vote validated with a new vote. Everyday business decisions can only be voted on at open, scheduled meetings.
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.