Q: A unit owner sued our condo association. Two years and $30,000 later he lost, but he vowed to get back at the association. He's quite a good manipulator, and after hosting many cocktail parties he got himself elected to the board. There he made life difficult in every way imaginable. His constant lengthy discussions delayed major projects and cost the association large sums of money. He did not win re-election, and now he is calling the state Bureau of Condominium with fabricated stories about misuse of funds and illegal procedures. The state investigated and discovered that he had transferred the title of his unit to someone else because he owes the IRS a lot of money in back taxes and was trying to shelter his home. Our attorney says we can do nothing about this, since it's between him and the IRS. I don't understand how ownership can change without approval from the board.
A: There's one in every community, isn't there, but yours sounds like one of the worst. My advice: Ignore him, let him dig his own hole. If he's not violating any association rules and is current on his fees, leave him alone.
As to requiring members to seek board approval to transfer title, that would have to be in your documents. If there is no such provision, you'd have to amend your documents, a process that will require your attorney's input. Are you sure you want to do this? That would mean the board had to approve every time a unit is sold.
Patio work required permits
Q: We're thinking of buying a condo in an older, two-story building. Last year, one of the owners had a concrete patio installed at the rear with a screened enclosure. We think this patio is on common ground and wonder if, therefore, we would have access to it. How can this owner build a patio on common ground?
A: I'm sure the documents do not allow an owner exclusive use of common areas. FS 718.107 defines conveyance to a private use. The board has no authority to grant private use of the common areas, but the owners can vote at a members' meeting to allow the transition.
I see two major problems here. First, did the owner obtain construction permits from the city or county? If permits were issued, the city or county should have obtained approval from the board. Did that happen? Second, did the board improperly grant approval, or did the board fail to act to enforce the documents?
Since you are not yet an owner, and have no standing here, lean on your seller to provide the answers for you. Ask him to write the board for documentation about how permission was granted (or not granted). Also have the seller file a request with the city or county to confirm that a permit was properly issued. You want all this in writing for your records.
Uninsured worker a bad idea
Q: The treasurer of our home-owners association is employing her sister to do a variety of repairs on the property. Last month she was paid $1,400. She is not insured and, as far as we know, the work is not going out to bid. Another concern is whether this person is declaring these earnings to the IRS. Can you recommend a book on Florida law regarding homeowners associations?
A: The board should consult with your insurance agent about whether there is coverage if this woman is injured on the job. My guess is that you have no such coverage. As for the IRS, the association may have to withhold and pay payroll taxes and file a 1099. The association also may be responsible for unemployment taxes and workers' compensation. It's never a good idea to engage uninsured workers. Any accident with injuries becomes the association's responsibility. Your attorney, CPA and insurance agent need to be involved here, and any work should go out to bid to properly insured and licensed vendors.
As for information on the statutes, you can download the Homeowners Association Act, FS 720, on the state Web page. Go to www.leg.state.fl.us. As for association operations and management, the Community Associations Institute is a good source: www.caionline.org.
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.