Evaluating an association
Q: I am serving in the Air Force out of the country and will be transferred soon to the Tampa area. My wife and I have decided we would like to purchase a condominium in the Tampa Bay area. In the past, we purchased homes and used an inspector before purchase. How do I determine the condition of the association? What documents must be provided and what should I ask? What about reserves, special assessments, future repairs or unexpected expenses? Any assistance or recommendations for material is appreciated.
A: Florida offers information to help understand condominiums at myflorida.com; type "condominium buying tips" in the search box. You'll find several articles that will give more detail than I can fit in this column. Do keep in mind our current economic situation. Many associations are struggling with delinquent owners, so ask for a copy of the association's current budget and financial statement. Evaluate the reserves to see that the association is collecting adequate reserves. If you find a condominium that you like and they do not have adequate reserves, reduce your offer to compensate for the loss of that value. Also obtain a copy of the current documents with any amendments, and read them to make sure you are okay with the rules and restrictions. While it is difficult to determine if the association is operating properly, your inspection of the property should help you determine the better condominiums. Ask questions, if possible to a director or manager, about such concerns as pending lawsuits, possible insurance claims and past history of these events. Use a real estate agent familiar with condominiums and an attorney to close the transaction.
Be sure assessment is paid
Q: As the surviving spouse of a condominium owner, I am entitled to a life estate on said condominium. I pay maintenance charges and real estate taxes. Now the board is enforcing a big special assessment. Since I am over 90 years old, should I pay it or should it be paid by the estate or the remainder owners of the property?
A: Regardless of who pays, it must be paid. If you have a problem with the payment, notify the estate holders for help. Failure to pay the special assessment will result in the association filing a lien and foreclosing on the unit. Then the estate holders will lose the title to the unit and you will be on the street.
No need to announce vote totals
Q: When the results are given for the election of directors, is it okay just to name who won or must you give the amount of votes each one had?
A: While there is no correct method, I suggest you only read the names of the newly elected directors and then thank those who were candidates. This promotes goodwill and avoids offending candidates with low vote counts. If someone wants to see the final tally, he or she should send a letter to the board asking to see the vote tally sheet.
Questionable action by board
Q: Our condominium has five directors. Three of the five have their units for sale. It seems these three directors force board motions and votes on reducing maintenance costs, lowering the reserves and not making necessary repairs. I say that as sellers, the directors no longer have their interests aligned with the majority of owners in our building. Is it proper for owners who have their units for sale to serve on the board?
A: Failure for the board to properly operate and manage the condominium is a violation of their responsibilities as found in the documents and statutes. With the actions described, it would be considered a conflict of interest. What they do not realize is that their actions or nonactions will cause their unit values to be reduced. In my experience, a director with a unit up for sale wants to spend more and make the common areas more desirable, not degraded.
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.