Q: We are considering purchasing a townhome in a community and would like to obtain the minutes from past meetings as well as financial information such as the funds they have in reserve for building maintenance and repairs. Are we entitled to this information before we make an offer and if so, can you tell us how to go about obtaining it?
A: What a great way to know the association before you make a formal offer. You should have the information and the seller should obtain it for you. Not many associations will allow an outsider to obtain the information direct from the board. Ask the seller to obtain the information and let you read the documents they receive. Be aware that the association may charge a copy cost for the records. I would suggest that you make an appointment with a board member or the manager to ask questions. Many boards will allow you to meet with them and answer your questions. Minutes may not actually provide you with information you need but a copy of the budget and last financial report will help. Condominiums should have a question-and-answer sheet that you can obtain that gives some basic information. Many homeowner associations will have a similar sheet, so ask if they have one. One thing you should read before you make an offer is the documents of the association. Make sure you understand the rules and deed restrictions. As an example, you may find that there are certain restrictions on parking and you have extra cars that if parked in the street would be a violation.
Dealing with arrears on rental units
Q: In our condominium complex we have many absentee owners who rent their units most of the year. We have an on-site sales and rental office that handles many of these rentals. A few of these owners are more than 90 days in arrears with their association fee and these fees grow every month with penalty fees. Some have been sent to our attorney and some we have placed liens on. Can the board of directors legally attach rent or part of the rent on those units where owners have outstanding delinquent accounts?
A: Usually not. In order to rent the unit and collect the fees you would need to have the right in your documents and usually get a court order. Talk to your attorney about the association's rights. Maybe you have the rights to screen new residents and the right to refuse occupancy. That would be the best way to force payment after liens have been filed and foreclosure has started.
Small condo's fees are large
Q: My daughter's condominium has increased their fees from $140 per month to $190 this year. There is a separate assessment of $250 and now new insurance fees of $600. This seems too much money for a small one-bedroom condo. How can she pay for all this? Is this legal?
A: It is difficult for me to give a specific answer as I do not have the details for your association. Fees must be calculated each year in a budget approved by the board. The budget is regulated by the state to contain certain items. The unfortunate situation is that many new owners do not realize that items break and need replacement or repairs. The structure of the buildings depreciates and needs repairs to restore them to the original conditions. You must understand that components cost more as they age and therefore fees must increase to match inflation. Your question about a one-bedroom and how she will pay for the added fees is an area for which I have no answer. The old saying is that there are two things certain in life, death and taxes. I must add increases in association fees.
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.