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Board may be just doing its job

Question: The board of our homeowners association is about to enter into a contract for the painting of our villas without membership approval. The only direct contract approval authority contained in our documents concerns hiring a management company.

It seems to me that such a large expenditure of association funds should be authorized by the membership. Our units are 6 years old, and I think painting is premature. Our reserve for painting is less than half of what we need. Does the board have this authority without membership approval?

Answer: There are two answers, one for condos and one for homeowner associations.

Condo boards have the responsibility to maintain the common elements, which authorizes them to contract for repairs and maintenance. For homeowner associations, some covenants allow or require the association to maintain the buildings.

See what your documents say about who has the responsibility to maintain the villas. If the association has that responsibility, your board is behaving appropriately.

Rule change

vs. amendment

Question: What is the difference between rule changes and amendments? How are they used in covenants, restrictions and bylaws of a homeowner association? Can you give examples of how they are applied, and who can make them, the board or the members?

Answer: I define your documents as made up of five parts: the covenants or declaration, the articles, the bylaws, the rules and regulations (sometimes called board rules) and the developer documents. Not all documents have all five parts, but they will have the basic three: the declarations or covenants, the articles and the bylaws.

Each section should have information on how to amend or make changes. If the documents do not state the requirements, refer to the state statutes (FS 718.112 or FS 720.306).

Think of the covenants as deed restrictions, the articles as the corporation's birth certificate, and the bylaws as the guide for business operations. At any time a change to these documents is made, an attorney should be consulted to review the changes. You are dealing with legal matters as to the operations of the association, and in most cases the changes must be recorded in the county public records.

Examples: (1) The covenants allow pets. The members want to restrict pets. This will require an amendment to the declarations or covenants and will require a vote of the members. (2) The board determines that there is a need to have dogs walked in certain limited areas of the community. That would be a rule change and could be implemented by a board vote because it does not take away rights.

Write to Richard White, c/o Community Living, St. Petersburg 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 CAMquestionsatt.net. Please include your name and city. Questions should concern association operations; legal opinions cannot be offered. For specific legal advice, contact an association attorney.

Readers may call the state Division of Condominiums Bureau of Customer Service at (800) 226-9101 with questions or requests for materials. Or write to Bureau of Customer Service, 1940 N Monroe St., Northwood Centre, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1032. 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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