Q: May I offer some advice to a reader who wrote that his community's board was a shambles and homeowners were reluctant to get involved? When I became president of our association, the board was dysfunctional. Some wanted just to talk about matters; others did nothing but occupy a seat at meetings. Repeated appeals in our newsletter for people to join the board went unheeded, so I started recruiting. I picked people who had something to offer and soon was surrounded by doers, not debaters. If someone came up with an idea, it was discussed, and I assigned the project to the one who suggested it and supported him or her to the fullest. The project remained an open item on the agenda until it was completed, and a progress report was requested at each meeting. A lot got done during my first two years in office. Those who did not produce soon found a reason to get off the board, and their resignations were quickly accepted. The key is to recruit good people who are more apt to be compatible with you and each other. But people have to be asked, as they just do not volunteer much any more.
A: Thank you for the useful remarks. I often say that you need to knock on doors and invite people to join the activities. I also recommend that meetings be informative, less combative and short. Good communication helps. To create an atmosphere of hospitality and fellowship it's also important — no kidding — to serve cookies.
No one likes to sail on a leaky ship, but a clean, fast sailboat is very tempting.
Let past failures go
Q: The new board of directors is sending out letters and posting fliers that blame previous boards — and list their names — for the rough times our association is dealing with now. The director responsible for these postings says that, since the membership of the boards in years past is a matter of public record, he has every right to list them and hold them responsible. We do have a 20-year history of boards that did little. Finally we voted them out, and in the past two years the board has accomplished what its predecessors could not or would not. I think the current board should be satisfied to point out its accomplishments, but it's just bad form to point fingers and personalize the blame game. This is causing bad feelings among members and between the old board members and the new.
A: Assuming the letters and fliers are accurate, there's nothing illegal about these postings. If the past boards abused the assets of the association, I suppose you could sue them. Otherwise the energy and time spent producing negative information would be better spent on producing positive communication about the accomplishments of the new board. A petition signed by unit owners asking the board to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, might be effective. Ask the board members if they realize they are alienating residents and creating a serious breach in the community.
Census still required
Q: We live in a 55-plus community. New buyers are required to show their driver's license, which we copy for our files, showing their age. Are we still required to do a census every two years?
A: The Florida Commission on Human Relations requires a census every two years and requires that the association register with the state every two years.
The federal Fair Housing Act also requires a census every two years. One person from each home or unit must sign an affidavit that he or she is 55 years of age or older and must present proof of age.
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.