Q. We are a cooperative and in our building we have a laundry room where the cost has increased from 25 cents to $1.25 per load. We would like to install a washer in our unit but the board has advised us that we are not allowed to have our own washer/dryer. How can we contest this situation? Any help would be appreciated.— H.B.
SeminoleA. Most buildings were not constructed to provide the proper plumbing to allow the use of washers in units. It may be almost impossible to vent the dryer to the outside. Sending a letter to the board will not solve your problem to allow an in-unit washer and dryer. As to the costs, I would expect that the replacement costs of the washers and dryers have risen over the years and the increase in cost is due to inflation. It is really the way the developer originally constructed the building that prevents you from changing your situation.
Q. I am on the board of our condominium. Recently the president amended the minutes that were approved at the last meeting. The president took the approved minutes and added a motion with the indication that the board had approved the motion. I would appreciate your input and recommendation as to how the other directors and officers should handle this matter?— W.L.
St. PetersburgA. Minutes are to record the business conducted at a meeting. They really have little purpose in future years, except if the association is sued. If a section of business not discussed and voted was added, then it may be a conflict if the association becomes involved in litigation. The directors must inform the president that the action taken was improper. The president must be made aware of the possible unauthorized use of the officer's position in that the board can remove her as the president at any properly called board meeting. At the next board meeting, the directors had choices of action to take. Either do nothing, which is highly improper and possibly a civil offense, or approve the action that the president took. They can reprimand the president or vote to appoint a new president and remove all powers that the president had. The directors must take some action either to approve the motion, alter the motion or vote out the motion. In brief, minutes can be amended only at a board meeting, but it takes a majority of directors voting for or against the motion. Never allow one director or officer to take unilateral action. No one member, director or officer, can act alone for the condominium.
Q. We are a HOA. We recently were sued by an owner who claimed that we were not enforcing the rules and regulations. Unfortunately, we lost the case and were forced to require the rule violators to correct the violation. This brought up a question about the liability the president and directors have in such matters. Our pool is fenced and we have signs posted with limited hours, such as sunrise to sunset. Would we be faced with a lawsuit if someone drowned in the pool? Could we be faced with a large court settlement not covered by insurance? We have a liability insurance policy but wonder if we do not have the proper coverage?— R.H.
Plant CityA. Anyone can sue anyone for anything. You must take action to properly operate, maintain, and document your actions. It would be impossible to establish programs to prevent all accidents, but you must try. You must establish a working safety program to try to prevent accidents. This begins with your documents and how the board functions within these guidelines. Creating working policies and operational procedures is only the beginning. I would suggest that you engage your insurance agent to help establish policies to reduce liability. Ask the agent if the insurance company will help provide an inspector. If not, then search for an engineer or property manager for help. I suggest that the board have a walking inspection of all the property each week or every other week. You can ask for members to volunteer for an inspection committee. Two or three members can walk the common areas and record on an inspection report any areas of concern such as a water pooling or cracks in sidewalks or at the pool where there may be a possible safety issue. The inspection committee can walk the streets and see if any owner is in violation of the rules. If you have a manager, get the manager involved in regular inspections. It is not a case of being overly aggressive directors but a situation of trying to prevent accidents and enforcing the rules. The inspection report should be provided to the directors for their review and then critical items discussed at the next board meeting. The concern of drowning should be addressed to see if you can establish alternate plans to prevent this accident. The pool company and the county health department may help. Remember this, while the board has total responsibility, the owners really have the last responsibility to see that the board is properly operating and maintaining the association. The members elect the board and if the board is not properly operating the association, then the members must take action to remove the director and elect a new board.
Q. After our annual meeting, the president only included on the agenda the election of the officers from the newly-elected directors. Is this correct or should he include business that is pending?— K.P.
ClearwaterA. Unless you have an emergency, the first meeting after the election is to elect the new officers. There should be two things on the agenda: the election of officers and to schedule the first business board meeting date and time. In addition, sometimes committee appointments may be made or confirmed. It is a short meeting to begin to plan for the coming year. Rarely would any new or old business be discussed. A newly-elected director may not have the information to properly vote on a motion. It should be a very short meeting to elect the officers and plan the next regular meeting.