Q: Our condo board is considering adding a house rule prohibiting guests or visitors when the unit owner is not present. Owners could not allow friends or family to stay in their unit on vacation, for example, while the owners were away. Is this legal? Is it enforceable? Can we tell unit owners what to do with their property?
A: Your attorney should review the proposed new policy to determine the likelihood that it will withstand a legal challenge. The short answer is that if this is done correctly, yes, it's legal, and it's enforceable if your members support it. It will be up to them to report the presence of strangers on the property. To your last question, yes, there are circumstances when the board can create rules that affect private use of the unit.
Loan creates problems
Q: Our building needs major, expensive repairs to bring it up to code. Our management company has suggested financing the repairs through a line of credit because many of our unit owners would be unable to pay an increased monthly assessment. What do you recommend: loan or assessment?
A: If your association had been collecting reserves properly all along, you'd have the money you need now and would not be faced with this problem. It's "pay me now or pay me later." If you borrow on that line of credit, you'll have to increase assessments to repay the loan. And you'll have to increase assessments further to start building up the reserves so you don't have this problem again.
Having that loan on your books will lower the values when owners try to sell their units, since potential buyers must be notified of the liability they'll be taking on. They'll want to pay less for the units or will buy elsewhere.
My recommendation is that you space out the repairs on a pay-as-you-go basis. Rather than asking for an upfront, lump-sum payment of a special assessment, which I agree can be a hardship for many, you can space out the payments in manageable bites over a period of many months. Then work on one repair project at a time as you have the money.
Speaking out of turn
Q: One of our owners is creating a major problem by representing herself as speaking for the association. I understand a portion of Florida condominium law that prohibits this. Can you give me the exact citation and suggest how we deal with this self-appointed spokeswoman?
A: A single sentence in FS 718.111(1)(c) says: "A unit owner does not have any authority to act for the association by reason of being a unit owner."
Send this unofficial spokeswoman a certified letter informing her that she has no right to represent the association. Tell her that if she continues, the association will take legal action. I would also tell her that if her actions cause financial losses, she will be responsible for the expenses.
Discuss the matter with your attorney, who may want to take additional steps to protect the association.
Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him c/o Community Living, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Sorry, he can't take phone calls or provide personal replies by mail, but you can e-mail him at CAMquestions@cfl.rr.com. Please include your name and city. Visit him online at talkwithcam.com.