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Board approves expense; manager may sign deal

Question: Our licensed manager says it is not necessary for the board to approve contracts. The president says that as long as the board approved funding for a project, it has effectively approved any contract subsequently signed by the manager. Is this right?

Answer: The board is responsible for operations of the association and cannot delegate that responsibility.

The board can direct the manager to carry out duties according to its instructions. See both FS 718.111 and FS 720.303 for delegation of responsibility. Once the board has approved an expense, it can delegate the manager to approve and sign the contract. A manager who received authorization and instruction at a board meeting to provide a service or to make a repair is receiving authorization to sign a contract.

As an example, the board might approve the expenditure of funds to have the lobby painted and would authorize the manager to negotiate and sign a contract with a painting contractor. Having the manager sign the contracts can certainly speed things up and relieve the board of some arduous work.

If there are problems with the agreement, the board is still responsible and must assume liability.

Snowbirds' shrouded cars

Question: We have a few snowbird residents in our condo who wrap and tie their cars and put them up on concrete blocks when they leave for the summer. This is unsightly. Our board is unwilling to take any action. How can a few owners be allowed to create these eyesores, which the full-time residents have to endure?

Answer: Is there a remote area of your parking lot where the snowbirds could place their bundled-up cars and they would be less visible? The board may want to establish a policy that winter residents must appoint someone to represent them in their absence and take care of their property. That representative could put up and remove storm shutters and check the units for leaks, mold and mildew, and keep an eye on their cars. At the very least, maybe the board needs to remind the absentee owners that this is the year-round home of other owners and that they should respect others' right to enjoy the community with all its amenities.

Vehicle registration dispute

Question: Our board requires us to register the autos we park in our driveway and garage. We have to display a permit on the windshield. The board fines us $25 for each failure to register and/or attach the permit. The registration requires a description of the cars owned by the homeowner and tag numbers for other permanent cars. The purpose is to identify cars parked on the streets that do not belong to the homeowners. The homeowners feel registering cars on our private property is not justified and the registration is an invasion of our right to privacy. Do you agree?

Answer: I have received questions about vehicle registration from several locations around the state. The basis for vehicle registration should be found in your association's documents. There are other reasons, such as security or safety, which may prompt the board to establish policies. You should find out what has prompted the new regulation and examine your documents to see if the board has the right to establish and enforce the procedures. Fining is more clearly a statutory requirement; certain requirements and enforcement policies must be in place to allow fining. Stop thinking personal privacy and start thinking association requirements.

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 toll-free 1-800-226-9101 with questions or requests for materials. Access the Bureau of Condominiums Web site at http://www.state.fl.us/dbpr/lsc/index.shtml; 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.

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