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Set limits to facilitate small payments

Question: Our association president makes decisions about expenses and payments without consulting the board. He does this even when there is no emergency. Can he do this just because he is president?

Answer: Any expense that is in the budget is considered a normal operational expense and needs no further board approval. Your board should establish a maximum that the president or manager can spend in the course of general operations.

If a repair is needed at a cost that does not exceed, say, $500 (or whatever spending limit your board has established), the president or manager has the authority to have that repair made without board approval.

For example, suppose the irrigation pump needs replacement at a cost of $350. If the board has approved spending of up to $500, the president or manager could immediately order that repair without consulting the board.

Don't limit small, necessary repairs or expenditures by requiring that the board approve each one.

Formulating rules

Question: Can our board pass a rule forbidding the use of skateboards, scooters and bicycles? What about people who use bicycles as a means of transportation? We are a 55-plus community.

Answer: The board's powers to adopt rules are established in the association's documents. In general, most boards have the right to approve what I call house rules, involving safety or procedures.

Your question suggests that the board acted on a problem without taking time to formulate a good rule. If the problem is with children playing, the board should have placed obligations on parents or grandparents to supervise the children or should have designated a play area.

Rules must be enforceable and reasonable and must relate to the problem. They must be communicated to the owners, and time must be provided for discussion and feedback before final approval. The association's attorney must have a chance to review the new rules before final approval.

Grill installation

Question: Our board voted to install cooking grills with above-ground propane tanks near our pool and close to one of the buildings. The residents were not contacted to see whether they were interested in this.

One of your columns said that any major alteration or improvement (not a repair) must be voted on by the owners. Would this be a major alteration?

Answer: Probably yes. Are these grills a permanent installation? Are they grills on wheels and legs, or are they anchored in the ground? Do your documents grant the board the authority to make these changes?

There are other questions to raise as well. Local codes sometimes restrict certain kinds of gas lines to cookers.

Check with your insurance agent to determine whether the grills invalidate fire coverage. Check with your fire department and building department and ask your health department whether the installation near your pool violates local pool codes.

Write to Richard White, c/o Community Living, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. No phone calls or personal replies by mail, but you can e-mail him at CAMquestionsbigfoot.com. Include name and city. Questions should concern association operations; legal opinions cannot be offered. For specific legal advice, contact an association attorney.

To discuss provisions of the state condo/co-op acts, call the state Bureau of Condominiums office in Tallahassee at (800) 226-9101 or (850) 488-0725 or call the Tampa bureau at (800) 226-6028, (800) 226-4472, or (813) 744-6149 or write to the Bureau of Condominiums, Education Section, Suite 200, 4524 Oak Fair Blvd., Tampa, FL 33610. Note that this office provides no information about homeowners' associations. The state has no bureau or department covering those associations.

You can access the Bureau of Condominiums Web site at http://www.state.fl.us/ dbpr/html/lsc/copage.html.

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