Q: I am a condo owner and have paid my fees before they were due for 14 years. I recently went to the bank to get a home equity loan. I could not get a loan, because 30 percent of the people living in our condominium are not paying their maintenance fees. The bank says it is not a secure loan because of the high delinquency rate. You had an article in the paper from another person having the same problem. Is there anything we can do against the association for holding us back?
D.P., Fort Pierce
Answer: Get involved! When was the last time you attended a board of directors meeting? Did you vote in the last annual meeting, and did you vote for the current directors? Do you follow the actions and decisions of the board of directors? Your problem is that the board is not performing its duty to control delinquencies. The statutes provide the most powerful tools to keep delinquencies low. The board can lien and foreclose on the delinquent units and put the owners on the street. Then the unit can be resold or refinanced.
If some of the owners are not paying their fees, you are paying their share of the fees to operate the condominium.
Delinquencies do not happen overnight. When you have 30 percent, as you describe, that could mean you have neighbors who haven’t paid their fees for months or even years.
You need to write the board members and ask them why they have not engaged an attorney, filed liens and started foreclosure actions against the delinquent units. It is your duty and responsibility as well as your neighbors’ to monitor and force the board to operate properly. `
Q: My neighbor and I are planning to run for positions on the board of directors of our condominium association. We agree that what we have seen from the board over the past few years indicates the need for some new and fresh ideas. However, we do not agree on one issue, and that is whether condominium associations are required to operate within the provisions of the Sunshine Law. It seems to me that I read somewhere over the years that this law doesn’t apply to condominium associations. My neighbor insists it does. His basis is that he belonged to a homeowners association that worked strictly within the provisions of the law. I would appreciate your opinion on this matter or direction on where I can get clarification on the subject.
R.P., Sun City Center
Answer: The Sunshine Law is found in FS 286.011. It applies to government and not HOAs, cooperatives or condominiums. However, association statutes have similar requirements. What the association statutes say (FS 718.112, FS 719.106 and FS 720.303) is that anytime a quorum of directors meets to discuss business, it is a board meeting and all owners are allowed to attend. Less than a quorum can meet in private to conduct business, but those directors cannot approve actions that have not been approved at a board meeting held in the open.
A good example of a private meeting would be when two directors meet to sign checks for expenses that have been approved. Another would be when two directors meet with a vendor to verify his work or have a meeting with the manager.
Although it is not a statute requirement, proper communication with the owners is very important for actions taken within these private meetings.
There is one exception to the above: If the association is in litigation, the entire board may meet in private with the attorney to discuss pending legal action.
Richard White is a licensed community association manager. He does not offer legal opinions; any other questions and comments concerning association operations can be sent to Richard White, 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., No. 201, Winter Haven FL 33884-4115; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.