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Condo shortfall must be paid

Q: We've just learned that many of the units in our small condo association are in foreclosure or pending. Other than a handful of owners, no one is paying the monthly association fees. We've closed the pool and cut way back on property maintenance because we don't have the money to pay for them. What happens now? Must a few unit owners bear the full burden of noncompliant owners? Can board members or the management company be held legally liable for mismanagement?

A: This is the question of the hour in today's grim real estate market. The short answer is that yes, you and the other dues-paying members must make up the shortfall. Suing the board or management is like suing yourselves and it will just cost you more money.

The only bright spot is that your property taxes may fall because your unit is worth less. That's cold comfort, I know. You are not alone; many associations are facing this situation these days.

Until the market turns around, here's my suggestion: You and your fellow owners should band together and do voluntarily what you formerly would have paid for. You cut the grass and do the landscape maintenance. You learn to treat the pool. Letting the place fall to rack and ruin isn't the answer. Keeping up the premises, in the long run, will lead to increased property values.

Non-owners are legal

Q: Does anything legally prohibit a non-owner from attending a condo board meeting?

A: Nothing in state statutes prohibits non-owners from attending condo or homeowner association board meetings. Read your documents to see if they place stricter requirements on attendance. They might limit meetings to members. Or your board can pass rules to limit visitors or non-members or restrict their right to speak.

Just remember that everyone who lives in your association may not be an owner of record. A unit might be owned in the wife's name alone. Does that mean the husband cannot attend the meeting? Or the unit might be owned by an adult child who lives out of town. Should the resident parents be denied access to a meeting where decisions are made about the community where they live? Sometimes vendors or service providers may wish to attend a meeting. Would your rules prohibit them from attending?

Amending an agenda

Q: At a recent board meeting of my condo association, a board member made a motion to amend the agenda that had been posted 48 hours in advance of the meeting. Two board members protested, saying the agenda could not be amended unless it was reposted with 48 hours' notice before the meeting. What's the correct procedure for amending an agenda?

A: Only emergency items can amend the agenda after the 48-hour posting. If the agenda is modified, the addition must be placed on the next meeting's agenda and ratified as a new item.

Any action taken on a non-emergency item may be illegal and unenforceable.

If a matter is so important and is not an emergency, the board can schedule a new meeting 48 hours after a new agenda and meeting notice are posted. Boards should be extremely careful about tacking on last-minute items without adequate notice to the members. It can give the impression you're trying to sneak something past them. It can lead to bad decisions if you're voting on something without adequate information.

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. On the Web: talkwithcam.com.

Condo shortfall must be paid 06/06/08 [Last modified: Friday, June 6, 2008 4:30am]
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