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Condos: Set tone for board meetings

By Richard White, Special to the Times
Published December 15, 2007


Q: Are reports considered agenda items, and must any action be taken on them at a meeting? When an owner addresses the board at a meeting, is a response mandatory? When loud and rude owners yell and exceed the time limit, can the board continue the meeting without acknowledging other would-be speakers?

A: Reports stand alone and no vote of approval is required. No discussion should follow unless the report refers to an agenda business item.

The board is not required to respond to members' comments. If you ever attend a well-run city council meeting at the public commentary time, you'll see that speakers get up, make their comments, and that's that, no comment, no response from council members.

The board should require that owners who wish to speak on an agenda item submit their names in writing before the start of the meeting. (Again, at a city council meeting, those who wish to speak fill in a card before the meeting starts, and at public comment time the clerk calls speakers by name to approach the microphone.)

Any well-organized person can express a problem or question in less than three minutes. If the matter is complicated, the speaker should send the board a written document that lays out all the details. If members have specific questions for which they need a response, they should write to the board. It's not reasonable for a member to expect the board to answer on the spot how you'll handle a rules violation or an overgrown lawn.

Any time a member becomes unruly, the board has the right to terminate the meeting or to take other action, such as having the person removed. You need to set the tone for what kind of behavior is acceptable and what isn't.

Rules for waiving reserves are specific

Q: Our condo unit owners are considering waiving the reserves for a year. What's the correct procedure? We'd have to use proxies to come up with a quorum. A majority of the board opposes waiving the reserves.

A: The section is FS 718.112 under reserves. (This section is a little confusing because it also addresses developer-controlled associations.) A members' meeting must be scheduled if the members want to change reserves. At that meeting the members must make a motion and vote to reduce or eliminate reserves.

If a proxy is used, it must be drafted by an attorney and must be a limited proxy.

Please note this important point: The required vote is not a majority of the quorum. Waiving the reserves requires a majority of all voting interests.

All owners responsible for elevators

Q: I live on the first floor of a three-story condominium. The building houses six apartments with two units per story, and there is an elevator. Why must my maintenance fee include a portion for the elevator service and repair? My unit and the other first-floor unit don't use the elevator, and I think we shouldn't have to pay for its maintenance.

A: That's like saying, "Well, since I live on the first floor, the roof doesn't protect my unit, so I shouldn't have to pay for roof repairs."

The elevators are part of the common areas and all owners have a responsibility to the whole. Suppose the elevator didn't work. Do you think that would affect the value of the units on upper floors? If they dropped in value, would that lower the value of your unit?

When you bought your unit, you agreed to comply with the documents and to pay a share of the common expense. What affects one unit affects all units in a condominium because you all share the common areas and the common expenses as listed in your documents.

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 talkwithcam.com.