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Understand the terms before buying a condo

Understand the terms before you purchase

Q: I have a one-bedroom condominium unit with a land-lease. I have been in communication with the agent handling the land-lease about the payment. It is not included with the monthly fee but must be paid separately. I have complained that my one-bedroom unit is the smallest in the building and should pay less. They tell me the lease payment is figured on a percentage of the units and not on the size of the unit. Is there a law that says this is the correct way to calculate such fees?

A: There is no single correct way to calculate fees. The developer that created the community/building created the documents which specify how to calculate the fees to be paid. Your documents should contain the information on how lease payments are calculated. That information should have been explained to you before you purchased. This situation illustrates why it is important for a buyer to fully understand what is being purchased and what terms are attached to the property.

Don't confuse due date with the grace period

Q: If an association sends an owner an assessment, how many days of grace can an owner use before a late fee is assessed? My association gives owners 15 days to pay any assessment before charging a late fee. This seems much shorter than the usual 30-day period for most transactions.

A: If the payment is due on the first day of the month and the payment is received on the second, it is late. Grace period is to allow for a delay in the mail. Subject to your documents, the board could apply a late fee if the payment is not received on the second day. The due date refers to when the payment should be received. The 15-day grace period you mention is a longer period than most associations allow and is a courtesy by the board.

Most committee meetings should be open to members

Q: A problem has developed that some of our committee chairmen and a couple of directors feel committee meetings should be closed to members. It is an issue that has come to a head and some committees have voted to close their meetings to the members. Should not the members be encouraged to participate in such meetings? Closing committee meetings seems to be counterproductive to our association and implies that there is something being hidden from the members.

A: I can only think of two instances where members could not attend a committee meeting: meetings of the fining committee or the grievance committee. Other than these, I cannot think of any reason for a committee to meet in private. The statutes are clear that any committee that makes final decisions or discusses finances or budget discussions must be open. A meeting notice similar to a board meeting notice must be posted, allowing members to attend and be part of the discussion. Other committees are not required to post notice, but I strongly suggest that they invite the members to attend.

Individual cannot act as an agent of the board

Q: Our community has one individual who is not a board member but who seems to have an opinion on everything in our community. While he is not violent in his actions, he is an influence on board actions as he is very boisterous at meetings. He writes letters to directors and members advising them as if he is a director, a somewhat unofficial rules enforcer. Our board does nothing to stop his aggressive actions and has discussed hiring him to perform management tasks. Can they hire him as a manager?

A: Any individual hired to perform management duties must be licensed as a community association manager (CAM). Stiff fines can be imposed by the state if an association hires an unlicensed person to perform the specific skills defined in Florida Statute 468.432. Another problem the board may face is a liability if they grant this person official power. The statutes are clear that no single owner can act as if they are acting for the association. Nor can an individual bind the association to a contract for services or create an opinion that they have the approved powers to be an enforcer. If the board does not take any action to address the situation, they can be found consenting with his action and found guilty of any action he takes. I suggest the board send a letter to this owner informing him that the board does not condone any action and that he must not assume any powers.

Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him at 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., No. 201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115. Please include your name and city.


Understand the terms before buying a condo 08/20/10 [Last modified: Friday, August 20, 2010 4:30am]
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