Q: A management company looks after maintenance and financial issues in our adult community of almost 300 units. We provide office space; the company provides the computer, fax, copier and other office equipment. Every time the equipment malfunctions, which is often, we get billed for the repair job. Our contract does not address this issue. Is it appropriate that we pay the repair bills?
A: I'd challenge the management company about why they're billing you for the charges when the contract does not reflect that this is your obligation. One way of looking at this is to say, "It's your equipment, you're responsible for it." Send a letter asking them to justify the charges. Suggest that they meet with you for a discussion of these charges.
Elevators must be maintained
Q: If our elevators break down and must be replaced, and we can't afford to do so, can we still operate using only the stairs? Or are we required by law to repair or replace the elevators?
A: Elevators are part of the common areas. Statutes require that the board maintain the common elements. The board cannot shirk this responsibility because the association can't pay.
Have you considered how much your property is devalued because of nonworking elevators? Who would want to buy a unit in your association? Given a choice of buying a unit in a well-maintained association with working elevators and a unit in an association with broken-down elevators, where would you buy?
Your association should be maintaining a reserve fund for elevator maintenance and repair. The owners (notice: the owners, not the board) can vote not to fund these reserves, but I think that's a major mistake, as you're finding out. Whether you have to take out a loan or levy a special assessment, you need to fix the elevators. And you need to get your financial house in order so you don't face this problem again.
Holding comments is unreasonable
Q: At the urging of our property manager, the board has approved a policy that members are not allowed to speak until the end of the meeting — after all business has been conducted, motions made and votes taken, at which point any comments we make are irrelevant. Sometimes board members get up and leave before the question-and-answer period. Are restrictions like this legal?
A: The following is right out of the Homeowners Association act — FS 720.303(2) (b) — but the condominium act, FS 718.112(1)c), has similar wording:
"Members have the right to attend all meetings of the board and to speak on any matter placed on the agenda by petition of the voting interests for at least three minutes. The association (the board) may adopt written reasonable rules expanding the right of members to speak and governing the frequency, duration, and other manner of member statements, which rules must be consistent with this paragraph and may include a sign-up sheet for members wishing to speak."
Your board's policy limiting owner comments to the end of the meeting is unreasonable and inconsistent with the statutes. Members must be allowed to speak on agenda items at the time the item is being discussed by the board. The board needs to establish reasonable meeting policies.
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. 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.