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Set rules for owner comments to board

Question: I am the president of a homeowner association. The new Florida Homeowner Act provides no specific right for owners to speak at board meetings, even though meetings must be open to members. There also is confusion about the right to record meetings. Can you clarify?

Answer: A board meeting is a business meeting for the board. It is not a members' meeting. Board members must accomplish their business in the open for members to observe.

The board should establish a policy for members to speak at board meetings. Discussion should be limited to agenda items only, and members should be required to notify the secretary, in advance of the call to order, of their desire to speak. Members who wish to add an agenda item should be required to submit their request and subject well in advance to allow time to research the question or suggestion.

Members have the right to record the meeting with electronic devices as long as they do not interfere with the meeting process. The board may wish to create a policy on this as well, perhaps limiting the method of recording, but it cannot prohibit recording. For example, the policy might permit any portable, battery-powered recording device but might prohibit one that requires multiple operators and is not battery-powered. The policy might require that members register with the board before the meeting to indicate that they are using a recording device.

New mail policy

Question: I live in a cooperative. The board recently notified the shareholders that packages or certified mail will no longer be accepted. This new policy is creating hard feelings as well as hardships on many of us. The board has created an indemnification and release form that would release the co-op from liability if it accepted a delivery and something were lost. Is this indemnification legal? Can the co-op still be held liable if something disappears from the common area?

Answer: Very likely this package-receiving service was provided in the past, and now someone has registered a complaint or filed a claim. The board is taking steps to protect the association while continuing to provide the service.

I was once a manager in a similar situation, and here are some of the problems I had with receiving packages and mail:

A certified letter was received and signed for by management, but the owner to whom it was addressed refused to accept it.

An owner went away on a six-month vacation and sent himself valuable packages containing jewelry while he was away. Where do you store or secure the packages?

Another owner ordered records under a "pay for one, get 10" deal. He left before the order was delivered and was gone for an entire year. What do you do with all those packages?

A florist delivered flowers, but the unit owner was away for the weekend. By the time the owner returned, the flowers were dry.

We received perishable food late on a Friday with no way to deliver it to the absentee unit owner.

The receiving of goods is a service and a tremendous liability. I can understand why your board feels that the free service needs some controls and release of liability. Be very happy that your board will take on the responsibility.

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. Please include your 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. Please 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 www.state.fl. us/dbpr/html/lsc/copage.html.

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