Q: I am an owner in a deed-restricted community. The association is self-managed. Our covenants allow for owners to request that the board make available books, records and financial statements. I have sent multiple e-mails (confirmed that they were received) to the board asking for copies of monthly bank statements to be aware of deposit and withdrawal activity and be apprised of the overall balance. These requests have been ignored. Would my recourse be to subpoena records through the state attorney's office, and would any fees associated with this action be the responsibility of the board members?
A: First, I would suggest that the monthly financial report would provide better information than the bank statement. That said, you must read the statute section involving association records. For homeowner associations (HOA), the section is Florida Statutes 720.303. (For condominiums, it is FS 718.111.) I do not think the state attorney will help you in this case as there are certain procedures you need to take. For requests to view association records, you must send a certified letter and ask for specific documents. Do not ask for all financial records, but the financial reports for the past two or three months, or the expenses for the past month, and so on. If a proper request is received, the board then must allow an inspection of the requested records, but if you ask for copies, the board can charge you reasonable copy costs.
All owners should have say in repairs
Q: My condominium association is contemplating replacing the hallway carpet on the first floor of our multistory building with tile. Many of our units are in foreclosure, and we cannot get the required 75 percent approval of the owners for this change. To solve this problem, our board of directors wants to limit the vote to only the persons who live on the first floor. The owners of units on upper floors would not be allowed to vote even though they have paid into the reserves to fund repairs to the common areas.
On another point, our board is contemplating foreclosing on unit owners who are not paying the required fees and then renting these units to bring in revenue to cover maintenance costs. I maintain this is all illegal. Who is right and who is wrong?
A: The capital improvement you describe should be approved by all the members, not just a few. A campaign by the directors to knock on doors and have the members sign a limited proxy should be started. Such an effort is simple and will give your directors a chance to meet the members face to face. As for foreclosure on delinquent accounts, that is what should happen. I hope that they have not waited too long to start liens and foreclosure action. In both situations, the board should have guidance from the association attorney.
Ascertaining if board member has conflict
Q: Is it okay for a condominium board member to run a business taking care of condominium units and the vehicles the owners leave behind during the summer? This board member also receives 10 percent from most small contractors who do work in and for the condominium members. He recently had his kitchen remodeled and is now having a get-together at his condominium to show people the work that has been done for him. It seems there may be a conflict of interest here.
A: With the information provided, this is difficult to answer. If the board member does not use his position as a director/officer and is not involved in association contracts, most likely he is not illegal in collecting a finder's fee. He may, however, be required to have proper licenses and report the income to the IRS and the state. If he uses his position as a director/officer or takes a commission or compensation on association contracts with association vendors, then he is in violation of the law. I would recommend that the board ask him to resign as a director/officer. If there is proof that he received compensation for services as a director/officer, provide the state attorney or police of the evidence in writing. Compensation can take the form of hard cash, something of value, services, non-cash values, even a promise or referrals. You, your members, and the board must determine if he is receiving compensation as a result of his serving on the board, or as a result of his private actions.
Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him at 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., No. 201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115 or send an e-mail to him at CAMquestions@cfl.rr.com. Please include your name and city.