Q: We just received a letter from our board announcing that it has approved a special assessment to cover delinquent payments from units that are in foreclosure and bankruptcy. Is this legal?
A: It is legal, and the frequency with which this is happening is a sign of the times. You, as unit owners, are responsible for paying your share of the common expenses. When someone doesn't pay, others must make up the difference to maintain and operate common areas. That is the board's fiduciary responsibility, one it cannot shirk simply because some owners don't pay. You'd be unhappy if, for example, the board announced the pool would be closed for lack of funds.
The board can lien and foreclose on delinquent units, but in today's situation, collections will be slow, if not impossible.
Handling news of delinquency discreetly
Q: One of our condo unit owners is $5,000 in arrears on her monthly maintenance fees. I think the board is obliged to inform other owners of the delinquency, but some directors fear she could sue us.
A: I would post a notice that "Unit 109" is delinquent, but I wouldn't use the owner's name. If your board members are still nervous, you can post a notice saying that a unit is delinquent and the details are part of the official records. Then anyone who wants the details can ask for a copy of the minutes, the official records.
Occupancy rules sales in adult communities
Q: In our adult community, can we refuse to sell to someone who wants to buy but is under age 55? We're aware of the rule: Eighty percent of the units must be occupied by at least one person over age 55.
A: The key word is occupancy. Anyone of any age may buy a unit in a 55-plus community. An adult child younger than 55 can buy a unit in which the parents live. The 80/20 rule means that a survivor can occupy the home if the person over age 55 dies. If a parent over 55 dies and leaves the home to a spouse or children younger than 55, the heirs would not be forced to sell the home.
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. Online: talkwithcam.com.