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Strong collections policy benefits association

Our homeowner association is foreclosing on three unit owners. Two of them tried to pay their assessments several months late, but the association refused them because they did not include late fees or interest. Lawyers are involved, and now the bill is much higher. Can the association really foreclose? Foreclosures make our neighborhood look bad.

When associations fail to use the powerful tools of lien and foreclosure, they put the other owners in the position of having to pay the fees of the delinquent owners. That makes your neighborhood look bad, and certainly makes it undesirable to potential buyers. The foreclosure process is not a "one-step-and-out" situation. Notices are sent to the delinquent owners and eventually the matter is turned over to the association lawyer. I usually recommend that associations send two or three notices to delinquent owners before the lawyer gets involved. It's not the board's responsibility to chase deadbeats. The stronger your collections policy, the better your association will operate and the lower your fees will be.

Owner won't provide keys

One person owns several units in our condominium. Without board approval he changed his locks and has refused to give keys to the board, thus denying the association emergency access to these units. What rights does the association have to enter the units in an emergency? Can we call in a locksmith and give the unit owner the bill?

The statutes _ FS 718.111(5) _ grant the condominium association the right to enter in specific situations. Review your documents for specifics about entry and keys. I would send a letter to the owner requesting a key or information about how to enter in case of emergency. Tell him that if an emergency arises and he does not provide entry in a reasonable time, the association has the right to force entry or call a locksmith, and any costs will be charged to him. An emergency could include water leaks or broken water lines, fire and smoke, or life-threatening situations.

Ask board for copy of list

I have asked to see our condo's delinquency list, but the property manager refused my request, saying this information is available only to board members. I think FS 718.111(12)(c) allows me to see this information.

Send a letter to the board of directors asking to see the records. The manager has no authority to provide the information; it is the board's responsibility to provide access to the records. The manager is there to carry out the board's policy. In some cases there may be confidential legal or credit information in the files, but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

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 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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