Condos: Board can gauge opinion before a big vote

By Richard White, Special to the Times
Published December 8, 2007

Q: The board of our mobile-home association will shortly decide a very divisive issue. How can I ask the board to conduct a vote of the stockholders i.e., the unit owners so they can see what our opinions are on this issue? I realize the stockholder vote is nonbinding and the board is not obliged to vote the way the members do.

A: The board must call a members' meeting at which an official vote is conducted. Please note that a members' meeting is different from a meeting of the board. Only board members vote at a board meeting. You can write a letter to the board asking it to call this meeting and conduct the vote in the interest of gauging stockholder opinion on this controversial issue. As you note, the board must still make its own decision and is under no obligation to vote as the stockholders do.

Apathy overload

Q: What would happen to an association if all the board members resigned and no replacements could be found?

A: Under those circumstances, any member of the association can petition the courts to appoint a receiver. These are expensive professionals whose salary and expenses will be paid by you, the unit owners. Your fees likely will double. Furthermore, the receiver reports directly to the court, not to the association, so you'll have no say in the operations or budget of your own association.

You're suffering from a major case of owner apathy. I recently discussed solutions in a podcast at (009) at my Web site, talkwithcam.com. Your association needs a leader who will get the members involved or they'll suffer the consequences of their own inaction.

Grandfather rule

Q: In 2005 we bought a home in Georgia as an investment. At first we used it as a second home. Now we rent it. The homeowners association has amended the bylaws to prohibit rentals. Can it do this? We wouldn't have bought the property if we were unable to rent it, and we think this amendment makes the property less desirable to future buyers.

A: Florida faced the same situation a few years back. State law now requires that if an association decides to amend its documents to prohibit rentals, the right to rent be grandfathered in until a unit is sold. Once it changes hands, it can no longer be rented.

The argument then was very similar to what you're arguing now: that the unit owners counted on rental income to pay the mortgage, and would not have bought that unit had they not believed they had the right to rent it.

It's worth asking the board why they felt this change was necessary. Sometimes all it takes is one bad tenant or one neglectful landlord. I can't guess whether the rule change will make it harder to sell your property.

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. Visit him online at http://talkwithcam.com.