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Proper handling of a motion

At a recent meeting of our homeowner association, an owner presented recommendations for rule changes. He then made a motion that the board accepted. I spoke up to say he could not properly make a motion because he is not on the board. He responded that as a committee chair he is entitled to make motions. What was the proper procedure?

Directors of both condos and homeowner associations are responsible for motions and decisions. In your example, the motion should have come from a director. The committee chair could have ended his report by saying, "I recommend to the board that the following motion be accepted," and read the motion, after which a director could have made it official by saying, "So moved." That could have been a director appointed as the committee's representative or one who volunteered to make the motion recommended by the committee. According to Robert's Rules of Order, a recommendation from a committee does not require a second.

Just as important, if not more so, is that the item should have been on the agenda. That way, members with an interest in the topic could have attended the meeting, and all directors would have known that the topic was coming up and could have been prepared to vote.

Dealing with violators

Our documents allow us to recover legal fees that we incur for sending demand letters and other pre-litigation action to enforce our documents and collect fines. Our management is reluctant to send out demand letters. Their feeling is that, if the owner ignores the letter, what's their next step? Our lawyer doesn't want to get involved and suggests we create a fining committee, but no one wants to serve on it. What options do we have?

When the violator refuses to pay, your only choice is to go to court to force payment. Then every step must be documented and be strictly in compliance with the documents and the statutes. Even if you win and collect, you haven't forced the owner to correct the violation.

My recommendation: Forget about fines. Your goal is to correct the violation. Send the violator two or three letters, then turn the matter over to your lawyer to enforce the rules by going to court. If the association prevails in court, the owner must correct the violation. Once the word gets out that you're taking this route, other owners will be more responsive to notices.

Make records requests specific

I am an absentee owner. I have asked the manager and the treasurer for copies of the latest minutes of board meetings and financial statements, but I don't always get them. What recourse do I have? I acknowledge that I have been critical of poor financial practices and inaccurate financial statements when they were made available.

Address a letter to the board of directors, not the treasurer or manager, asking for the specific records you want. "Financial statements" is too broad a term; that could cover thousands of pages of documents. If you want the monthly financial report for December or the minutes for November, ask for them specifically. The board has a right to charge you reasonable copying fees.

Remember that the minutes will be only a record of motions and votes, not a transcript of the meeting. Monthly financials will likely be unaudited and may therefore contain erroneous information because of the form of accrual and cash systems. The board should arrange for a year-end financial report, reviewed by a third party, that would provide more reliable information.

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 CAMquestionscfl.rr.com. Please include your name and city. Questions should concern associationoperations; 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 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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