© St. Petersburg Times, published September 7, 2002
Question: Our condo is not classified as an adult community. Recently the association sent out a form seeking the following information: date of birth for first resident, Social Security number, driver's license number, vehicle make, year, color and vehicle identification number. Is it necessary for me to provide all this information?
Answer: Sometimes an association sets up an emergency information list and needs personal data. Some associations have parking limitations and need details about residents' cars to control parking. Why not write the board and ask why it needs this personal information?
Question: A number of buyers 20 and 30 years old have moved into our condo during the past three or four years. They have no concept of the responsibility of ownership, such as replacing roofs, exterior painting, or lawn mowing. They're uninterested in what goes on, feel the rules don't apply to them and don't attend board meetings. Some single people rent out rooms to others, which violates our documents, but we have no way to prove they are collecting rent. We tried to established ourselves as a "55+
" community but fell three votes short of the required 75 percent. We think the majority should rule and 75 percent is unattainable on any issue. What can we do?
Answer: I usually get complaints from young people that the older people play the TV too loud and walk too slow. You must learn to live with the younger people. There is little you can do to change the deed restrictions without the votes. Take advantage of their youth. Try to get them involved. I know it will be difficult, but young people will improve the energy level. Think of them as your children or grandchildren and treat them as you would want others to treat your children. As to changing the requirements of state statutes, contact your state representative.
Question: Is it mandatory that unit owners have homeowners insurance? Our declaration states the following: "Each unit owner shall be responsible for purchasing, at his own expense, liability insurance to cover accidents occurring within his own unit and for purchasing insurance upon his own personal property." The word SHALL is used throughout our documents where action is required by the board or unit owners, i.e., "Unit owner shall," "the association shall obtain," "the board of directors of the association shall obtain public liability and property damage insurance," etc. Board members argue that the word WILL would make it mandatory.
Answer: "Shall" versus "will" is merely a matter of semantics. Both are words that compel action. Please do not take my answer as an interpretation of your documents. A minimum condominium insurance package to cover the items in question could cost less than $200 a year. But there are lots of variables: proximity to the coast, threat of hurricanes, kind of building construction, safety systems, value of personal property. This kind of insurance is very inexpensive money to spend for high-value losses. I strongly recommend that all condominium owners obtain some form of coverage.
I would include an additional coverage called loss-assessment coverage, which is no longer as inexpensive as it once was but is still recommended. This coverage protects against a special assessment for most association losses. All owners should contact an insurance agent immediately to discuss the package and the addition of loss assessment coverage. It will be a small loss today to prevent a large and crippling loss in the future.
One last thought: The fact that owners carry personal insurance is not an excuse for the association to reduce its coverage of common areas.
- Write to Richard White, 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 CAMquestions@att.net. 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.