Q: We paid a special assessment two years past and now the board is returning the overpayment. However, we sold our unit last year. The overpayment is being paid to the new owner. We have understood that the overage should be paid to the person who paid the special assessment. Are we wrong?
A: Special assessments are not charged to an owner but to a unit. You may have paid the assessment, but you paid it for the unit. When you sold the unit, you sold any fees due as well as any overpayment of fees. Sorry, but the return of the special assessment would go to the new owner.
Limits can be changed
Q: Our board passed a motion to limit future boards from spending more than $5,000 without approval by the members. Will this restrict future boards from making emergency repairs?
A: From the American Legion Magazine, here is a joke: How many politicians does it take to change a lightbulb? Two: one to change it, and another to change it back. In other words, no board can impose a policy on another board because the new board has a right to change it. Keep in mind that you have statutes that can only be changed by the state. You also have your documents, and there are procedures for the members to amend the documents. Boards have rights to approve policies, but future boards can amend or void policies established by past boards.
Exercise in patience
Q: I live in an adult community where the clubhouse was recently refurbished. The president purchased new exercise equipment that is heavy industrial equipment entirely unsuitable for the older residents. I need the exercise and therapy for my health. Do you have any suggestion on how to get the board to provide better exercise equipment?
A: Send a letter to the board about your problem. Maybe the board can have the exercise equipment company send a specialist to explain the proper use. Just because it is industrial equipment does not mean that it is impossible to use. Work with the board and ask for its help.
Following the rules
Q: Our declaration says that it takes a two-thirds vote of the members to modify the documents. Our bylaws state that the board has the power to adopt amendments by a majority vote. Does the declaration take precedence over the bylaws?
A: Association documents contain three primary parts: the declaration, the articles and the bylaws. Each has different requirements and different purposes. Your declaration usually defines the real property and how it is to be operated. Your articles define the corporation and how it is to be managed. The bylaws establish how the business of the association is conducted. The declaration is the highest of the three, followed by the articles and the bylaws in the order of powers. The bylaws, however, can be amended by the board if there is no conflict with the other two powers. Amending the bylaws allows each board to establish better operational decisions and would not necessarily require a members vote. For example, say that the bylaws call for board meetings to be conducted the first Monday of each month at 6 p.m. The board members feel this is not a good time because many owners cannot attend due to work and the TV schedule. The board can then vote to move the meeting to the first Thursday at 7 p.m.
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.