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An open and shut case

Question: In the wake of the hurricane, our condo is now permitting all unit owners to install approved shutters. Most of us have wanted shutters for years and approve. So far so good. Now the board wants to limit the closing of the shutters to only when a hurricane is coming. They are not considering that a person might be out of town when a storm hits. This topic is not covered by our published rules. Does the board have this authority?

Answer: Depending upon the wording in your condo's governing documents, the board probably can add that restriction. If they do, I would imagine the association has the responsibility to close any open shutters in case of a storm. The condo we live in, as well as many others, follows the rule that if you are going to be gone for any length of time at all, close your shutters when you leave to protect not only your apartment but the rest of the building. In case of a storm the association may not have the time or staff to do it for you.

Financial reporting

Question: Nobody understands what is going on financially in our condo. We do not get very good feedback from the board. They are, at last, now giving us a financial report, but it fails to tell us exactly what the money was spent for. The president is keeping the books and says anyone can look at them at any time, but gets angry whenever the simplest question is asked.

Answer: The income/expense statement you sent is not unusual. It would provide a clearer picture to the unit owners and a little more responsibility on the management if each line item also had a comparison of expense to the budget covering the same time period. Items over the projected budget would be explained at the next monthly meeting, as would any shortfall in income.

You are not alone with your other problem either. I have found that some people who are great dealing with figures are not so good at dealing with other people. If the president is overpowering to deal with one-on-one, take one or two others with you the next time.

Obey legal rules

Question: C'mon, Jack. Let's be real. Our documents give the board the power to create and modify the house rules. We set a restriction on the number of people from each unit who could use the pool because it gets overcrowded on holidays. You create havoc by advising readers that they do not have to obey legally constituted rules.

Answer: I have never advised people not to obey legally constituted rules _ quite the contrary _ but I was asked by two residents what I thought about your rule restricting the number of people each unit could have at the swimming area of your complex. They both said the pool is nearly empty most of the time.

I suggest that the implementation of a rule restricting the rights of the unit owners for 365 days to cover the excesses of four holidays may be overly restrictive.

Speculation is out

Question: A community association of mobile homes in the Keys has a written rule that bothers me. I feel that the law of public policy would make the following rule illegal or at the very least unenforceable: "After a prospect qualifies to purchase or lease a unit, the board of directors shall then determine if, in its opinion, the applicant can be expected to comply with the rules and restrictions and if the buyer is of good character and reputation. . . . "

Answer: Right you are. An association cannot make a determination based upon what its members think a person might or might not do. The association can sometimes make a decision not to accept a prospect based upon that person's having a provable record of bad conduct, disregard for association rules or non-payment of assessments in previous housing situations, but making a "today" case based upon "yesterday's" actions is very difficult to enforce and disapprovals are rare.

A dictatorial act

Question: At our annual condo meeting, the members voted on an amendment to our declaration that would have prohibited unit owners from leasing their apartments for periods of less than three months. The amendment failed, but three months later our rules committee and board of directors approved the same issue and intend to make it a rule rather than an amendment to the governing documents. Is it proper for them to do that?

Answer: Your governing documents permitting, the association's attorney possibly has advised that a house rule can be passed and enforced by the board, limiting the minimum rental period to 90 days. Their decision, in my opinion, is insulting to the electorate.

What the board has just done is say to all their friends and neighbors that we are smarter than you-all, we know better what is best for the community and are overriding you! Instead of taking the time and effort to sell and convince you that a limit is right we will just play the role of dictator.

Ninety-day rental is not the issue here. In areas where a great majority of the residents are permanent residents, it is usually best not to cater to a constantly changing, transient occupancy. In a resort area, most units are owned as second homes and were sold with the idea that the owners could rent them for short terms throughout the year.

Jack Holeman is a longtime condominium manager, owner and board member. He welcomes your questions. Write to Jack Holeman, Condo Line, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Sorry, he can't take phone calls or provide personal replies. You can call the state Bureau of Condominiums office with your questions at (800) 226-6028. Or write to the Bureau of Condominiums, Correspondence Unit, 725 S Bronough St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1033.

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