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No rules govern who chairs election meeting

Question: Who presides over the organizational meeting to elect new officers? Once the officers are elected, does this person still preside over the meeting or turn it over to the newly elected president?

Answer: It does not matter who calls the meeting to order and who presides and conducts the meeting. The only real consideration is that the meeting be properly and fairly conducted and that the majority agrees with the selection of the chairperson. I suggest that the outgoing president or the manager act as the chairperson.

Limited business is conducted at the organizational board meeting. The agenda should probably list only the election of new officers and scheduling of the next board meeting.

After the election of officers, the chairman could yield the chair to the newly elected president to adjourn the meeting, or could retain the chair and adjourn the meeting.

Whoever chairs the meeting should make sure that someone acts as the secretary and records the minutes. It is easy for the chairman to ask someone present, even the retiring secretary, to record the minutes.

Check that amendment

Question: When our condominium was built many years ago, it was marketed as a senior community. We've never had an owner or tenant who was not a senior. Recently an owner died, and her daughter inherited her unit. Now the daughter and a granddaughter live there. When we objected to their presence in our senior community, they challenged the rule. We can find nothing in our documents about an age limitation, so we amended the declaration to say, "The condominium is to be maintained as a senior (over 50) association. All buyers or renters must be 50 years or older." We feel that if we do not take action, anyone can break the rules.

Answer: Please understand that I am responding as a lay person, and I strongly urge that you seek advice from an attorney. From the information you have given, I see several problems. The Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995 sets age 55 as the minimum for senior communities. You cannot exclude occupants on the basis of age unless you comply with that act. What you have done to amend your documents may be unenforceable and may have put a cloud on the title of every unit in your condo. I suspect you did not have legal advice when you amended the documents. Seek legal advice to nullify what has been done, then follow your lawyer's advice to qualify your association as an adult community. Note also that you must file every two years as an adult community with the state Commission on Human Relations.

Incidentally, federal law says that to qualify as senior housing, 80 percent of units must be occupied by at least one person age 55 or older. That allows couples where one spouse is younger than 55 to occupy a unit. The act does not address ownership; anyone may own a unit. That permits adult children to purchase units in their names where their parents live. You'd be surprised how often that's the situation in 55-plus communities.

At http://fchr.state.fl.us,, you will find links to the Florida and federal fair housing acts and HUD rules on fair housing.

Uneven rule enforcement

Question: Does it say somewhere that if a board refuses to enforce one rule, the others are not enforceable too?

Answer: Without more specifics, I would have to respond, "Probably not." If the board is not fulfilling its duties, it could make for a weak defense if a court attempted to enforce other rules. Ignoring one rule is a dereliction by the board of its duties and responsibilities. The board places itself and the association in danger of being sued to enforce the rules. You need to talk to your lawyer.

Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him 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.

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