Condos: Responsibility should come with power

By Richard White, Special to the Times
Published December 1, 2007

Q: Because of increasing insurance costs and other expenses, it has been very hard for our homeowners association to limit the annual increase in assessments to 5 percent without a special vote of the members to exceed that cap, as required by our documents. I have urged my fellow directors to call a members' meeting to gain approval to exceed the cap, but the other directors say our members are too passive and won't attend. I've studied FS 720.303. Is there any legal way to exceed the 5 percent cap?

A: Since I'm not a lawyer, it's not appropriate for me to interpret documents or statutes. However, it's my opinion that the statutes do authorize the board to override the document limits here because the statutes give them the duty and responsibility to properly operate the association. See Section 1 of FS 720.303, which discusses powers and duties.

Your budget cap renders the board unable to properly operate and maintain the association. The members elect you to operate the association properly, so it seems only fair that the board have the authority to do so.

Virtual voting

Q: The board of our homeowners association has started conducting business and voting via e-mail. At the next meeting they list the items handled this way and confirm their votes. Is this legal? Homeowner input has been completely eliminated by this action.

A: My feeling is, they can engage in online discussions, and they can make it known how they intend to vote, but they shouldn't vote online. That should take place at a public meeting at which members have a limited opportunity to speak on agenda items. Operating behind closed doors is never a good idea.

Ask for a copy

Q: If the board accepts a member's letter of resignation, can a homeowner get a copy of that letter?

A: Sure. Resignation letters should be part of the minutes of the meeting at which the resignation was accepted. Write the board a letter requesting a copy of the minutes of that date, including any attachments or supporting documents. The board can charge you for the copies. If your board does not keep proper minutes, I would ask in writing specifically for a copy of the resignation letter.

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.