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Community living: Submit request before making exterior improvements

Q: After reading and rereading my association bylaws, I am puzzled by our board's denial of changes I made by installing white stepping stones in front of my property. As I interpreted the bylaws, I am only supposed to seek permission from the architectural review committee and the homeowners association board if I am altering the architectural look of the property. Did I really need an ARC request for stepping stones?

A: Though you may not read these exact words in your documents, use the following standard: Any time you do work or any change to the exterior of your home, submit an architectural request. If you create a new flower bed, change your mailbox or cut down a tree, submit the form. Usually no fee is required to submit the form.

Unopposed candidates

Q: We only have one person running for the board of directors. He is already on the board, but his term is up. Do we need an election at our annual meeting?

A: If you have only one candidate to fill the vacant director position, then an election is not necessary. In such a situation, the candidate is automatically elected. With any vacant positions without a candidate, the board must appoint or elect someone to fill the vacancy at the next board meeting.

Joining units

Q: We now realize that we are unable to maintain both our home up North and our condominium in Florida. Since we have two homes of furnishings, we would like to buy the unit next to ours and open the wall between the units. We know we will have to pay taxes and fees on both units. Would it be legal to own both units and can we connect them?

A: The problems you might face are not laws but codes and documents. First, check your association documents to see if there are any limits on combining units. Then check with the county to see if there are any building codes that may limit the opening of the wall. Often there is no restriction on joining two units. I suggest sending the board a letter of your intentions and ask for their approval in an effort to head off any potential problems. In addition to paying fees and taxes on both units, you will have two votes on any association action and at the elections.

Banks won't pay fees

Q: Our homeowners association comprises a small group of townhomes. We have very few amenities, but our fees have escalated to cover several units that are not paying their fees. We placed liens on these units but none of the owners paid their delinquent fees. A few units are now owned by the banks, which also have not paid the fees. What is our next step?

A: In this situation, you must have an attorney provide advice to help resolve the collection problems. Your filing of a lien was only a first step. You should have had the attorney file foreclosure action as soon as feasible. Your object is to get the delinquent units paying as fast as possible. Once you have title to the property, you have several options such as renting or selling and maybe deeding the property to the bank. You say that the bank now holding title will not pay. The bank is subject to the same title rights and obligations as any other owner. If the bank does not pay, have the attorney lien the property and start foreclosure on the bank's property.

Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him at 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., No. 201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115 or you may e-mail him at [email protected] Please include your name and city.

Community living: Submit request before making exterior improvements 08/07/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 27, 2009 7:10pm]
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