Question: Our association has informed us of a special assessment for roof work. An owner is selling his condo. Must he inform the prospective buyer of that assessment?
Answer: Sellers must inform prospective buyers of any problems involving the home or unit, as well as the association, common-area properties, pending special assessments or discussion of special assessments.
Your question raises another one: It appears that your association did not maintain adequate reserves for roofing or did not collect proper reserves. Why not? Wise buyers will reduce their offer by the amount of the special assessment.
Much ado about minutes
Question: Our rules say that official records must be provided within five days after the board or its designee receives a written request. Do the minutes become official only after the board approves them, or can a request be made for the tape of the meeting prior to its being reviewed and transcribed by the secretary for approval by the board? Does that request have to be met before the approval? In our condominium the tape is destroyed after the minutes are approved by the board. Must we provide only the approved written minutes, or the tape as well?
Answer: Since your board does not maintain the meeting tapes except to document the written minutes, the tapes are not official records. If your association maintained the tapes after the written minutes were approved, they would be considered official records and could be the subject of a request for official records.
Often we make too much of the content of minutes. Many people want them to be a verbatim transcript of everything that was said at the meeting. They should be only a brief statement of the business conducted, not everything that was discussed.
I offer a two-page report by lawyer Daniel Perry on association minutes. For a copy, send a business-size, stamped (37 cents), self-addressed envelope to me at the address at the bottom of this column. Mark your outer envelope MINUTES.
Fee averages don't exist
Question: Where can we find out the average condo maintenance fees for an area, or the cost of particular services, to see if we are being overcharged?
Answer: There is no standard fee to compare against your association. The Institute of Real Estate Management does publish a book each year that lists management and association fees, but it is a tool rather than a guide.
Each association is different: different amenities, different responsibilities, different goals. Past budgets may have been underfunded to keep fees low, but that shorted the maintenance of common elements. Or perhaps past budgets included proper reserves and operational expenditures, which kept the property well maintained and now allow for lower fees.
Write to Richard White, c/o Community Living, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Or e-mail him at CAMquestionsatt.net. Please include your name and city. Questions should concern association operations; legal opinions cannot be offered.