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Was closed meeting with lawyer legal?

Recently our homeowner association board met privately with our lawyer to review proposed changes in the bylaws. No litigation is pending on any of these topics. The chair of the committee that proposed the changes was excluded, as were other members of the association. I know the board can meet privately with its lawyer to discuss pending litigation or legal strategy, but that's not the situation here. Was this closed meeting legal?

Any time a quorum of directors meets to discuss association business, there must be advance public notice and the meeting must be open. The exception, as you note, is to discuss litigation with the association's lawyer.

(Even then, a meeting notice should be posted and minutes should be taken. They can simply note the date, time, place and who attended, and record that a meeting was held, without revealing any decisions.)

I would have announced the meeting, allowed the membership to attend, and made sure minutes were taken. The board was correct in consulting with your lawyer about proposed changes.

Steep insurance hike

Our management company is predicting a hefty increase in property insurance for next year. Our primary policies come due in April or May. In the past we paid a portion up front and financed the rest. Rather than pay the finance charges, the board wants to make a special assessment so it can pay the entire bill up front. Then it wants to let the monthly association fees that would otherwise go to insurance accumulate in the operating budget to pay the premium in 2008. Can these funds be earmarked for future property insurance only? Can our owners vote to borrow from the reserve to pay the entire bill (rather than a special-assessment) and direct that the funds collected monthly for insurance be placed in the reserves so we'll continue to be fully funded?

I don't think that strategy will solve your problem. You'd still have to replace the reserve funds. Yes, you can vote to place the funds in a separate insurance account, but you could also vote later, in case of an emergency, to use those funds for some other purpose. Here's my recommendation: Ask your insurance company if you can have a short-term or long-term policy that moves the policy date later in the year. If you take a six-month policy or an 18-month policy, it would move your due date to November or December, when you will have accumulated most of the funds you need to pay the premium in cash.

Meetings optional

My association has not had a monthly meeting since April. Aren't we required to hold those, and are they not supposed to be announced and open to all residents?

The statutes don't require board meetings. The statutes do require one members' meeting each year and say that any business must be approved at board meetings. Your bylaws may require meetings; read your documents to see what they say on the subject.

Some associations - particularly in communities where many people are gone all summer - have no board meetings during the summer. In spring, they establish operating policies for the summer months that allow management and the officers to function and operate the association without meetings.

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.