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Community Living

Board can overturn decisions

Published May 5, 2007


Q: Can a homeowners association's incoming board rescind a special assessment approved by a previous board? No action has been taken to purchase the assets for which the assessment was imposed.

A: Most motions or resolutions made by past boards can be changed or eliminated by a future board. Nothing is written in stone. I can't think of a way a board can impose its will in perpetuity. That said, if a previous board entered into a contract which doesn't seem to be the case here, you may have to pay cancellation penalties to get out of the deal.

Making motions work

Q: What is the correct way for a board to word a motion? Should a motion simply say, "Move that we buy two additional bike racks, " or should it specify, "Move that we purchase two five-space bike racks from the XYZ Co. at a cost of $200"? Is there a requirement that a motion to award a contract cite the contractor and the cost, or is that just a good business policy?

A: There's no one right way. A motion may propose action of a substantive nature, or it may direct action generally. I suspect from your question that you have found motions can be too flexible.

You've cited two possible wordings for a motion. Here's a third example. Suppose the board was directing the manager to have a necessary repair made. Any of several contractors might be called upon to do the work, and an exact price quote is not yet available. The motion might say, "Move that the manager be authorized to have the damaged steps outside the clubhouse repaired at a cost not to exceed $500, " which puts some financial brakes on a situation and gives the manager discretion to choose the contractor.

I recommend that directors put motions in writing and circulate them to the board before the meeting. Board members can study the motion and get their questions answered.

I have seen boards approve last-minute motions where they had no idea how much the proposal would cost, how they were going to pay for it, whether the motion was legal or proper, or even if it was needed. That's not a good way to conduct business.

Rules hold the answer

Q: Over the years we've had many requests to replace the windows in our condo building, but we can't get a majority vote to approve a special assessment. Now unit owners want to replace their windows on their own. Do we need a majority vote of the membership to do this, or can the board approve the project?

A: Check your documents to see who is legally responsible for the windows: the board or the unit owners. If, as is usually the case, it's the board, then the board should approve a special assessment to replace the windows. This is in accordance with your legal duty to maintain the building and common areas. If your documents say that unit owners are responsible for windows, then the board should prepare a window specification policy so you don't have a mix/match of different windows.

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. You can e-mail him at Please include your name and city.

[Last modified May 4, 2007, 12:07:09]

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