Testing limits of the parking rule
Q: I live in a community that has a deed restriction against overnight street parking. The president of the homeowners association refused to apply the no parking rule as he says it's not enforceable. I would appreciate your opinion.
A: A lot depends on your community and your documents. In most situations, if a rule is in your documents, it would be enforceable in court — as long as enforcement is not selective. In some communities, the streets are so narrow that a parked car could block an emergency vehicle. In this situation, the rule would be enforceable. In the long run, if this board does not enforce the rules, future boards may not be able to enforce the rules. I suggest you file a written complaint to the board of directors.
Surplus: Give it back or use it?
Q: I am a director in a condominium and we will have a surplus at the end of this year. This was found after the budget was approved. The board decided to place the surplus funds in our reserve account. We have been challenged by our members that these excess funds should be distributed to the members instead. Can you clarify this point?
A: Florida Statutes 718.115 and 718.116 cover the issue of surplus, and simply put the board can return the money or use it to reduce future assessments. The decision to return the money, in my opinion, is the least desirable because it involves expenses (the cost of cutting checks and postage plus bookkeeping expense). I would recommend that the board apply the money as a credit toward future fees.
Budget for specific line items
Q: When we prepared our budget, we added a percentage in anticipation of forthcoming increases after discussing future prices with the vendors. Some of our members complained that we should have shown exact financial numbers and added a new line item such as contingencies. Which is correct?
A: You should never use a percentage to calculate specific line items — and you should never use exact figures. The budget is an estimate, an educated guess. When creating a budget, one considers past records of what was spent, the economy and inflation, estimates of vendor increases and increased costs of materials and supplies.
Bylaw revisions and pet peeves
Q: Our condominium bylaws specifically state no pets. These bylaws written almost 40 years ago have been ignored and many owners have been allowed to bring pets into the building. At our last board meeting, the bylaws were revised to say only service dogs will be allowed. The board said that pets now in the building will be allowed to remain in the building. This does not solve the problem I have with a barking dog. Was this correct to only enforce the rule in the future?
A: Once a board fails to enforce the document rules, the board is guilty of neglect and the members and owners lose some of their property rights. Rules become unenforceable and property values can diminish.
I would suggest that the board seek guidance from the association's attorney in this process.
Water damage is mixed liability
Q: It is my understanding that the condominium has some liability if there is a water leak where one unit leaks into another unit. Would you please explain?
A: The simple fact is that the unit where the water leak occurred is only responsible to repair the leak. The damage in each unit is the responsibility of that unit's owner. However, the condominium association would be responsible to replace any unfinished drywall. This scenario illustrates the importance of insurance.
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.