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Unit conversion alters condo documents too

By RICHARD WHITE
Published September 30, 2006


Q. Our condo association includes several two-story townhome units, mine among them. The living space is on the first floor, bedrooms on the second. Six of these units have converted their ground floors into separate studio apartments. I've petitioned the board for permission to do the same. I figure that by increasing the number of units in the condo, we will lower the fees per unit. What is my next step?

A. Don't do anything without consulting a lawyer. What you are proposing is not as simple as it appears. Your plan involves altering the condominium documents, and owner approval is required. By adding units you are reducing each owner's share of ownership. Your documents will define the procedures to alter or amend the documents. Your board needs to consult with its attorney as well about whether and how to do this.

These 'votes' are improper

Q. Most of our board members are winter residents. They have no regular board meetings but instead make decisions through what they call straw votes. Each board member is contacted and asked to approve or disapprove an item or contract. The agenda items are not discussed at an open board meeting until after the contract has been signed and in most cases after the work has been completed. These are not emergency items that require immediate board action. Is this legal? The meeting agendas list some items to be discussed, but others are added at the meeting. Is this proper?

A. The actions you describe are improper. All business must be discussed and approved at an open, legally called board meeting. An absent director can be considered present if a speakerphone is set up for everyone to hear the conversation. Business can be conducted if a quorum of directors is present, either in person or on speakerphone.

To make it easier for the association to operate during the summer when many board members are away, the board can approve a spending limit for the president or manager to cover emergency repairs.

As for the agenda, FS 718.112 says that only agenda items posted 48 hours in advance of the meeting can be discussed. If an emergency item arises within the 48-hour period, it can be discussed, but must be placed on the agenda and ratified at the next board meeting. The idea is that anyone who wishes to speak for or against an item has an opportunity to do so.

Storm damage unrepaired

Q. One of our condo unit owners has kept his windows and patio doors boarded up since last year when, he says, they were damaged by a hurricane. He claims the board is responsible for the repairs and refuses to do anything unless the board pays. Can we force the owner to make the repairs? Our association's insurance claim is still being processed.

A. Start by reading your documents to see whether the owner or the association is responsible. I suggest you ask your association attorney for an opinion letter. If your documents say it's the association's responsibility, the board must arrange for repairs, with or without insurance funding. Maybe your attorney should work with the insurance company to move the payment of your claim along.

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 CAMquestions@cfl.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.