Years later, board starts complying with documents
Q: For years we have been able to rent our unit weekly. A new management company was engaged by the board. Now management is enforcing a rule in our documents that says rentals of 30 days are the minimum. Many of the owners want to rent short-term but are being stopped by management. Can management and the board enforce the documents even if they have not been enforcing them for years?
A: Though the failure of enforcing rules can as a result make a rule unenforceable, proper notice will allow the rule to be made enforceable again under certain situations. New management is only following orders from the board. Your concern is with the board and not management.
Find out what caused the board to start complying with the documents.
Maybe it was as simple as they wanted to correct an oversight from past boards. Maybe the insurance has a requirement to not allow short-term rentals. It could be possible that the county has put pressure on the board to collect short-term tourist taxes.
It would be my guess that the board and management can enforce the rule to limit rental terms because of a complaint.
Forget legal action over community's decline
Q: We live in an older homeowner association that was well maintained and had high property values. Today we have many homes that are vacant due to foreclosure or occupied by renters. This results in poorly maintained homes and lots. Our property values have dropped and we are concerned about our future. We feel this is all due to a loss of control by the board. The board is afraid of lawsuits if they attempt to enforce the rules. For our self-preservation, we are selling our home and moving. This will result in a loss as the market is not in our favor. We think we have grounds for a lawsuit and ask for your opinion.
A: The solution is to understand that we are in an economy that has resulted in many homes delinquent in their mortgages and association fees. You and your community are not alone.
Some owners just walk away from their homes resulting in foreclosure. Some will try to save their home by renting to pay for the expenses. Many associations have delinquent accounts that are at record highs.
It is a tough market with Florida's unemployment rate so high.
Your association and board need help and you are running from them. The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. If you did not like the way the board was operating, then why not try to help by volunteering or vote in new directors who will take action.
To take legal action against the board and the association will be a waste of time and money. Although the board is the final authority, each owner has responsibility as well.
Current statutes usually prevail over documents
Q: Our condominium was built in 1978 and our documents have never been changed. Over the years we have followed a statute that was dated the same as our documents. Now we have been informed that we need to make changes to comply with the current statutes. Some of these changes will conflict with our documents. What is the correct action?
A: Most of the time, the latest statute prevails and should be followed. Each year the state reviews problems and conflicts and tries to correct these problems with statute changes. Association law is an ever-evolving process. Just because the board takes one action one year does not make it the proper action the next year.
It is important that the directors have professional help and guidance. The state and groups such as CAI as well as some lawyers have seminars to explain changes and operational procedures. I would advise all directors to find sources for these seminars and other study materials.
Education is extremely important for new and re-elected directors. It is part of the directors' responsibly.
Statutes in most situations will override your document requirements.
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.