1. Archive

When common areas become private

Question: Our president has declared that the ends of the common-area walkways may be used for the exclusive, private use of the residents owning the end apartment units. The areas are, in most instances, furnished with chairs, settees, tables and carpets. _ Bradenston

Answer: I have seen the same thing happen myself, wherein a rather remote piece of common property is treated by the nearest unit owner as private property.

If the space or area involved is not specifically referred to in the association's recorded declaration as limited common property intended for the exclusive use of named units, then it cannot be so usurped, and the board or its officers usually cannot declare it legally such without the affirmative vote of the association membership.

Most associations do not tolerate the restricted use of these end areas, although some do permit the end unit owner to decorate or personalize the space to some extent as long as it does not affect the external appearance of the building, restrict passage nor provide a hazard in the case of fire.

If your condo documents and restrictions are to mean anything at all, they must be strictly adhered to or amended.

More for their money?

Question: Our villas were built 17 years ago. Of the four sections, ours contains only 19 units instead of 20, because the developer ran out of land. Payments on the mortgage that came with the land are $6 per month per unit higher because the rest of us have to pay the share for the phantom unit that never was built. We are quite upset about this situation. What are your comments? _ Bradenton

Answer: I am sure there are a few legalities bearing on your question that may not have been put forth in your letter. Nonetheless, the common denominator seems to be that the mortgage is on the association property, and there are only 19 of you to pay it instead of 20.

I assume that you want a court to force the original developer to go back and pick up the 20th payment, since he intended to build the extra unit. For several reasons that idea won't work but, most important, it is now your property, not his. Your 1/19th share is worth more than the original 1/20th. Only 19 families use the facilities and amenities rather than 20, and fewer cars will be in the parking lot, etc., even though it is costing you $6 more per month than you thought it would. For $6 the tradeoff might be worth it.

Too few volunteers

Question: I have been secretary of this 60-unit condo for about six years now, and I want to be replaced. In fact, the whole board wants out, but many unit owners show no interest at all in being of service. Because of this lack of interest, I am writing for information about contacting, qualifying and selecting professional management for our community. _ Miami Shores

Answer: Your letter is only one of many we receive these days from associations having problems filling and refilling the volunteer shoes. Wanting to find the right quantity and quality of site management is their goal, but it is usually followed by a notation that, at least until now, the unit owners have been less than enthusiastic about the thought of having to raise assessments to cover the cost of having professional management. Yet those concerns are insufficient to prompt them to volunteer as an officer on the board.

I have compiled information about the considerations of hiring association management, where to look for it, how to determine what your community needs and can afford. I will provide it to any reader who will send a stamped, self-addressed, business-sized envelope to me at the address below. Mark it MANAGEMENT.

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 Condominium office in Tallahassee with your questions at (800) 226-9101 or (904) 488-0725 or call the Tampa bureau at (800) 226-6028 or (813) 744-6149 or write to the Bureau of Condominium, Correspondence Unit, 725 S Bronough St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1033.