Board is improperly conducting business
Q: Would you give your insight on how many statutes and laws can be broken by a board? We are a small condominium association with most of the owners living out of state.
The board has allowed a vendor to dig up the property and lay new cables without approval from the members. They have changed our cable TV contract without canceling the existing cable contract. The board did not provide a new budget for this year. They recently painted the building and installed shutters using the paint reserve fund without members' approval. I can go on with our roof problems and other building maintenance problems.
I have called the state and they said that I must file a written complaint. I do not want the state to fine the association, thus adding more debt, so I have not gone that route. Can you help?
A: You are describing a situation where the owners fail to understand their duties. Thus the board is taking advantage of the passive owners. All owners have responsibilities. That includes to attend and participate in meetings, vote on issues and elections, cooperate with other owners, bring any concerns or problems to the board (in writing), serve on the board and committees, be familiar with provisions of the statutes and documents, and be a good neighbor and comply with proper actions.
Another key factor is to monitor the actions of the board. If the owners elect directors who do not properly operate the association, then they have only themselves to blame. Can you be a candidate for the next election or have you tried to get your neighbors to volunteer? As you describe, the board is improperly conducting the business of the association. You have four choices: Recall the board; elect new directors at the next election; file a formal complaint with the Division of Florida Condominiums; or do nothing and let the board do its own thing. To improve your situation, you must take action to vote in new directors.
Board has a right to access, inspect unit for a leak
Q: Our board has a problem in that two of our units have evidence of water seepage. The water has caused a serious mold problem. The unit above one of the units with seepage refuses to allow the board to inspect his unit. He claims that the leak comes from the roof, and that it is the association's responsibility to make the repairs. We have had a formal inspection of the roof that did not report any leakage. It is our understanding that the owner has a right under law to deny entry for the inspection. Other than a civil lawsuit, what would you suggest?
A: To the contrary, the board has a right to inspect for the leak. The statute:
"FS 718.111 (5) RIGHT OF ACCESS TO UNITS — The association has the irrevocable right of access to each unit during reasonable hours, when necessary for the maintenance, repair, or replacement of any common elements or of any portion of a unit to be maintained by the association pursuant to the declaration or as necessary to prevent damage to the common elements or to a unit or units."
My guess is that your documents may have a similar requirement. I would send the owner a letter and refer to your documents and the statutes. My guess is that you will find that the leak is coming from his bathroom. In such a situation, more than likely he will be responsible for the repairs to stop the leak. Although he may not be responsible for the damage to the apartment below, he must take action to correct the leak.
If he does not provide entry, have the association attorney send a demand letter. I am sure that at that point, he may be held accountable for not only the leak but possibly the repairs to the units below. Do not play games. Send the letter and then have the attorney take corrective action.
Work out a plan to remove invasive trees from property
Q: I am on the board of a condominium and it has been discovered that there are exotic trees growing on the property. Some are growing next to water. The county is requiring us to destroy these invasive trees. We have gotten an estimate of $150,000 because of the water issue and contamination.
Have you encountered this before? What options do we have? We are unable to pay these high costs. The exotic trees were on the property when the developer turned over the association to the members.
A: I assume that these are Brazilian pepper trees, melaleuca, or other nonnative, invasive trees. I have experienced similar environmental problems but not this large. Maybe you can seek information from the University of Florida Extension Division. Their Web page is plants.ifas.ufl.edu. Also contact your county extension, as they may be of help. (You can locate your office on this UF Web page; click on the left side, on County Extension Offices.)
You need a plan of action that has been approved by the county. The plan may involve tree removal over a scheduled time period to remove a section each month or so. Talk to the county to see if you can extend the removal of some trees over a few months or years. You need to talk to the vendor that will be removing the trees and see if you can have them work out a plan to remove the trees in sections over time. Although this does not save you the expense of the environmental tree removal, it can spread out the expense.
With a good plan, the vendors and the county will work with you. Although I do not think you can go back to the developer, you can pose the question to your attorney. He or she may have knowledge of a section of the law that will involve the developer.
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.