Q: A tenant uses his electric wheelchair on the private streets of our community and the public streets that lead to stores and shopping centers. We believe it's illegal for the wheelchair to operate on roads because it isn't licensed as a vehicle and lacks proper equipment such as lights. We think our documents do not allow it to be used this way and the association should be able to restrict its use. Your comments?
A: The only problem I see here is your unsympathetic attitude toward handicapped people. Do any of you ever walk in the street or ride a bicycle or operate a golf cart? You're responsible for your safety and so is this wheelchair user. Spend your time and energy encouraging members of your community to observe the posted speed limits, which I assume are 25 mph.
Don't punish tenants
Q: A unit owner here who rented his condo to tenants is delinquent on his monthly maintenance. Can we evict his tenants? Must we go through our attorney or can the board send them a letter of eviction?
A: Your gripe is with the unit owner, not with the tenants. They haven't done anything wrong. They're not in arrears on the maintenance, the owner is. Evicting them doesn't get you your delinquent payments.
You already have a very powerful instrument to collect delinquent accounts: the ability to lien and foreclose. You should have a collections policy to move quickly against delinquent owners, and that requires the assistance of a lawyer. Once you have filed the proper documents, it may be possible to have the tenant pay the association directly, but your attorney can advise you about that.
A wishy-washy board
Q: I live in a pet-free community. The board is trying to change the policy to read, "Absolutely no dogs. Other pets may be kept if they are inside at all times." The impetus for this is that some people have cats, the board knows it, and doesn't want to offend them. Can the board change the rule without an owner vote? This has been a pet-free community since day one, and everybody knew it.
A: Modifying the documents as you describe typically takes a vote of the members. But the real issue is this: Does the board have the right to refuse to enforce the rules? As long as the no-pet rule is on the books, it's the board's obligation to enforce it, and you have the right to expect it to do so. A board that does not enforce the rules is failing in its fiduciary duty.
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 http://talkwithcam.com.