Question: I own a 1997 pickup truck and recently moved into a condo that forbids the parking of such vehicles. Isn't this discrimination, the same as barring owners on the basis of skin color or religious belief? _ Tarpon Springs
Answer: I don't think I have ever seen pickup trucks listed along with race, religion, sex and national origin as something you cannot discriminate against.
In general, the association does have the right to regulate the types of vehicles parking on association property. Most do have rules governing the parking of vehicles that are used for commercial purposes, whether they are pickups, vans or sedans. They can be banned (even if they are not marked as business vehicles) if used in any way for transporting workers, materials or even trash. However, those same vehicles, if unmarked and used entirely for personal transportation, are being ruled acceptable by more associations and courts all the time.
I question, however, whether you read the rules and agreed to abide by them before you bought the condo unit. That should have happened prior to or during your interview with the screening committee.
Liens against manager
Question: We are a 10-unit condo. The president of the association, who owns five units, has not paid assessments on his places for more than a year and now owes $6,000. He refuses to place liens on his units. What can we do? _ Miami
Answer: Plenty! The president has neither the right nor the authority to play games with the association's assets. As an officer and elected director, he is in a position of fiduciary and trust. His decision not to pay is even a conflict of interest, since he is the governing officer telling himself not to pay. He can't even be outvoted because he owns 50 percent of the condo units.
If necessary, you, as a unit owner, can have provisions of the governing documents as well as the law enforced by instituting a legal action. Get to an association attorney fast. This guy should pay not only the back assessments but also any interest and fines your documents require and probably any attorney's fees incurred in trying to collect.
The price of democracy
Question: One thing you have never mentioned in your column bothers me about the operations at our condo. Because of the Sunshine Law, the board cannot even have workshop meetings to constructively plan, work out details and talk over problems without having a bunch of people with the loudest voices always having something to say and demand.
Can't we do something to have the Legislature remove the Sunshine Law so we can allow boards more leeway to manage? _ Merritt Island
Answer: I am bothered by suggestions that we make the process any less democratic than it is. For every idea of that nature I am sent, there are 20 saying that their president or board is too dictatorial and secretive.
I think Florida statutes and most association documents give unit owners the control needed to operate democratically. Often the problem is to get all unit owners to take a strong enough interest in their community to insist on total openness and to step up and share the responsibility and be part of the solution rather than just complain.
Your workshop meetings are announced in advance, which is good. Any interested unit owner may attend, and that is also good. However, perhaps you went too far by having the workshop meetings open to continuous participation by the resident body, which is not required by law. Associations are a representative democracy in which the governed elect directors to represent them and to act in their name. Many successful associations hold workshops but place limits on visitor participation.
After all, the unit owner's purpose in attending these discussion meetings is to be aware of the problems their elected board is working on, to act as watchdogs that they do not vote on any proposals or establish any policies or decisions that the law requires be made at a regularly scheduled board or membership meeting.
Comment: I enjoyed your article regarding non-handicapped people driving cars with handicap placards. You were more than kind to these "Handicap Hustlers."
I am a police officer. In the last year I have issued tickets to more than 50 of these hustlers. Please tell your readers that since October 1996 it has been illegal to park a vehicle displaying a placard in a disabled space unless the owner of the placard is actually in the vehicle when the car is parked (SS 320.0848(7).
The usual sentence for this offense has been a $250 fine, $112 court costs and 75 hours of community service working with the disabled. Checking my arrest forms, I find that most of the people arrested have been elderly, and most were using the placard of a family member who was not in the vehicle. _ Hialeah
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 by mail, but you can e-mail him at holemanusit.net. For specific legal advice, contact an association attorney or call the state Bureau of Condominium office in Tallahassee 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.