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Community Living

What constitutes a home-based business?

By RICHARD WHITE
Published May 12, 2007


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Q: A tenant operates a phone/mail-order business from her unit, selling vitamins. Two or three days a week, she gets a delivery from UPS or FedEx trucks. There is no foot traffic. Our documents state that the condominium units shall be used for residential purposes only and condominium units may not be used for business use or for any commercial use whatsoever. Is she breaking the rules?

A: This is an increasingly gray area because it is hard to define a home-based business. Thanks to computers, many people do business from their homes, trading stocks, editing newsletters, working as architects or sales representatives. They can stay in touch with their company's office but do their work at home online. In most cases no one would ever know that someone is working.

Consider these criteria: Does the business require an occupational license? Do employees or clients come to the house? Is there signage on the unit? Is the resident storing products in the unit or garage that are hazardous? There is a difference between someone operating a beauty salon out of her unit, with clients coming and going all day, and someone who works on the phone and computer as a pharmaceuticals representative.

No conflict here

Q: I read that a member of the condominium management corporation should never take the minutes of board and membership meetings because of a conflict of interest. Is that right?

A: The board can appoint anyone to take the minutes. It need not be a director or officer. It could be a resident of the association who is not on the board. It could be a paid public stenographer. It could be the manager.

As a manager, I usually insist on taking the minutes because I feel I have more experience at taking them and producing the proper document to be approved by the board. I produce a draft copy within a couple of days, which is submitted to the board for its review.

Once board members review the draft, I produce a final copy to be approved at the next meeting. I see no conflict of interest in having the manager produce the minutes. In the final analysis, the board is responsible for approving the minutes, regardless of who produces them.

The board is boss

Q: Every time a question is raised concerning the governing of an association, you say the management company is not responsible. What is management's role?

A: The board is responsible for the operation of the association. The board tells the manager what to do, not vice versa. The manager can advise, suggest, tell the board what the statutes require, point out problems that need board action, and so on, but ultimately the board makes the decisions and tells the management what to do.

The manager can suggest that it's time to replace the furniture in the clubhouse, that the reserves are low, or that some members are in violation of the rules or bylaws, but the manager on his or her own has no authority to do anything about those issues. The board must make the decisions and tell the manager what to do.

Management is there to keep the association on track, but if the board ignores the manager's advice, the manager can do what the board orders or resign.

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. E-mail him at CAMquestions@cfl.rr.com.

[Last modified May 11, 2007, 12:20:20]


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