Q: Hundreds of condominium associations are experiencing cash shortfalls and increasing assessments to make up the shortages. As a board member, I constantly request updates from our attorney and management company for existing liens. Your recent statement that "you can ask the mortgage holder to take title to the unit . . ." is misleading to owners in lieu of today's banking crisis. Most units are heavily mortgaged with value below the first mortgage, so banks are dragging their feet to foreclose or canceling auctions. Liens can be filed, but to spend additional cash associations do not have for foreclosure proceedings in this scenario appears fruitless.
A: You have a valid point. I strongly suggest fast and final action including the expensive action of foreclosing for the following reasons. In my opinion, your object is to get the unit paying as fast as possible or generating income and you will need an attorney's guidance for the legal actions. A bank will drag it out, and their foreclosure can sometimes take a couple of years; the association can foreclose in a few months. Once the association has title, it can rent the unit, sell the unit (possibility a short sale) or transfer the unit to the bank (if the bank will accept title). You are correct in that many banks will not accept title and will not agree to a short sale.
Garden will have to go
Q: For about five years now I have created a garden for my parents at their condominium. After my father's death, my mother was crushed and I moved in to take care of her. Last Saturday, the board of directors told my mother they had received a complaint that the garden was not up to code and would have to be torn down. I understand rules are rules, but there are many other violations that are ignored in this condominium. My mother and I feel harassed and alienated from the neighborhood.
A: The statutes — and, I am sure, your documents — say no owner can take over the common area for personal use. I am sorry to give you a disappointing answer. As to the original problem, the board never should have allowed private use of the common grounds.
Association manager duties
Q: The president of our condominium has made a policy that any unit owner who wishes to meet with the employee association manager must do so with board members present. The manager concurs with this ruling. What can we do to stop this practice?
A: The duties of the association manager are often misunderstood. The manager is hired by the board of directors to assist them in the business and operations of the association. The manager has duties assigned by the board of directors. Usually those duties are assigned in the form of a contract, approved policies, and/or board motions. Managers have no responsibilities to the members, the association or the board. A manager must be licensed and has fiduciary duties similar to the directors' fiduciary duties. Understand that the association manager has no powers to solve owners' problems unless the board allows the manager to solve problems. If an owner needs to report a situation or wants an answer to a question, that owner should put the request in writing and address it to the board of directors. Members elected the board to operate the association, and it appears that your president wants to know all problems to effectively perform his/her duties.
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 CAMquestions@cfl.rr.com. Please include your name and city.