By RICHARD WHITE
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 30, 2001
Question: Our board insists that the president can vote only in cases of ties. Others say the president can vote on any issue. When our president is absent, he designates someone to vote his proxy. Is this proper?
Answer: You're confused by Robert's Rules of Order. Board members are elected first as directors, and all directors must vote on all matters. Your president was elected first as a director and has an obligation to the members who elected him to vote on all matters. The minutes should reflect the way each director voted on any motion or resolution. Absent board members cannot vote by proxy.
Confusion arises because Robert's Rules refers to "the chairperson" whom members or directors could elect before each meeting to chair that meeting. A board could elect its community manager or its attorney to chair any meeting, and that person would not vote. What typically happens, however, is that the president automatically acts as chairperson. The president/chairperson is a director first and must vote on all matters.
Question: A tree damaged our car after a storm. We filed a claim with our insurance company, then we learned that the tree had been dead for more than 12 months before the storm. Since our condo board failed to remove it, we think they accepted the risk that damage might result. We submitted a claim to the board, and it was declined without consultation with the association's insurance company.
We are seeking reimbursement for our $100 deductible. Can we approach the condo insurance company directly?
Answer: Owners have no right to make direct contact with agents or contractors of the association. You do have the right to bring your claim to the board, and the board or its manager should file the claim with the insurance agent. It is up to the insurance company or its agent to accept or refuse a claim.
As for going to small claims court, save your money. Storm damage is an act of God. It would be hard to prove neglect by the association. Be glad you had good insurance on your car. In most cases, the association is not responsible for personal property loss.
Question: Our condominium association has been approached by a citizen coalition to join the fight against a county plan to extend a highway in our area. This road plan could affect the condo association and several others around it. The coalition is asking each association for a donation of $100 to $200. Can the board authorize the use of operating funds to provide this contribution?
Answer: When special-interest groups ask for money, I caution boards to be careful about spending association funds. Unless the expense is a budgeted item, someone could sue the board for spending money improperly. I suggest the board solicit contributions and collect the funds that way.
The same is true of giving money to charity. Unless the gift is approved by the members, use only contributions for donations, not association funds.
Write to Richard White, c/o Community Living, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. No phone calls or personal replies by mail, but you can e-mail him at CAMquestions@bigfoot.com. Please include your name and city. Questions should concern association operations; legal opinions cannot be offered. For specific legal advice, contact an association attorney.
To discuss provisions of the state condo/co-op acts, call the state Bureau of Condominiums office in Tallahassee at (800) 226-9101 or (850) 488-0725 or call the Tampa bureau at (800) 226-6028, (800) 226-4472, or (813) 744-6149 or write to the Bureau of Condominiums, Education Section, Suite 200, 4524 Oak Fair Blvd., Tampa, FL 33610. Please note that this office provides no information about homeowners' associations. The state has no bureau covering those associations.
You can access the Bureau of Condominiums Web site at www.state.fl.us/dbpr/html/lsc/co_page.html.