Richard White: The less you put in your minutes the better
Q. I continue to enjoy and learn from your weekly column. I recall a recent column which reviewed the requirements for board minutes of a HOA. I especially appreciated your advice that minutes do not need to include discussion. I am trying to recall whether mandatory inclusion of votes must disclose who voted or only what the numerical result was. I wanted to discuss this with our manager, but cannot locate or retrieve from the newspaper website.— J.K.
IslamoradaA. Minutes have only the basic information about the business conducted by the board or members at an annual meeting. Minutes should be placed in a book and retained for seven years. About the only time the “official” minutes would be used, would be by a judge or trial in a lawsuit. Quite frankly, the less you put in your minutes the better. Usually committees do not take minutes but keep and submit reports. Minutes include the time, date, location, and a statement a quorum is present. One of the first agenda items is to present reports. The minutes would reflect who gave what report and the subject of the report. As the agenda moves to previous business and new business, only the item and motion would be recorded. At the time of the vote, the director’s name and how they voted would also be documented. No discussion would be included in the minutes. The time of the meeting would also be included. For normal operations, you should have one page for each hour long the meeting takes. The words “Keep It Simple” do apply when you record the minutes. As to the newspaper Web page, you would need to contact the webmaster for archive information.
Q. Our condominium unit deed specifies a specific parking space. Recently the president confiscated the deeded parking spaces and reassigned them. If an association can confiscate your deeded parking space, what else could they confiscate? Would you consider this theft or bad judgment or both?— D.E.
ClearwaterA. I call it testing his perceived powers. Many times, a person placed in a position of power will push the power to the edge and beyond. In your case, did any owner or director complain or claim that the president could not alter the deeded parking space? The facts are that the board and the president cannot just alter the deed or title to your unit. Since the spaces are recorded, they belong to the unit they were assigned to. It is like running a red light. If no one objects or a policeman does not stop you, did you violate the law? Yes. You were in violation of the law but you would not be punished or have to pay a fine if no one objects. The fact is that the president does not have the power. He would be subject to the other directors and the members. If the other directors do not take any action, then they would be considered to be consenting to the illegal act. If the members do not make an objection, then they would be also consent to the illegal act. It is not a situation of two wrongs making a right. I would suggest that you and your neighbors write the board of directors and challenge them to correct the situation where the president took deeded property. I am sure that any attorney would be happy to take this case if you sue the board as you have your property and deeded rights that were illegally taken.
Q. I am a resident in a maintained condominium village. I pay a monthly fee to the association and the association is supposed to maintain the grounds. The lack of grass has been an ongoing problem. I realize the state restricts the use of excessive irrigation. However, our board has installed extra sprinkler heads on their property and the landscaper gave them new sod at no charge. The other members have shoddy lawns and poor landscape. Is this illegal and what about a conflict of interest? What recourse do the residents have? Do you have any suggestions?— P.E.
LewisburgA. What you are inferring is that the board is receiving special services from the landscaper. Yes, this could be considered to be a kick-back. The board has a fiduciary duty as well as the responsibility to maintain the association. If they unfairly care for the landscape and benefit from vendor services, they are in violation of law. The federal anti-kickback statute 42 USC prohibits individuals from knowingly and willfully offering payments, compensation, or soliciting or receiving remuneration, value, services or promises. Florida has similar laws as FS 817 concerning bribes and kick-backs. If you know the board is receiving special services, why do you elect them? Your action would be to present evidence to the State Attorney’s office. Since that will take time, maybe at the next election, vote in a new board.
Q. An owner sent a letter to the board requesting a change to the bylaws to be voted at the upcoming annual meeting. The board and president have neglected this request and did not address the letter at the board meeting. Can the president ignore or deny an owner’s request? Should all letters and communications be discussed at board meetings?— K.L.
ClearwaterA. Keep in mind that a change to the documents should include a review by an attorney before the matter is presented to the members. If the changes are presented to the members in a proper meeting and voted to approve by the members, it should be recorded in the county court records. There are several other requirements listed in the statutes when documents are amended or modified. An attorney would be needed to take the proper actions. You did not say the type of association you occupy so I will not be able to list the specific sections of the statutes. Just because an owner feels that a modification or amendment is necessary does not justify the change. It may not be in the best interest for the members. Furthermore, without extensive communications and information provided to the members about the changes recommended well in advance of the meeting, members may vote improperly. In other words, several of the members need to pose in writing the suggested changes well in advance of the meeting. That information should be reviewed by the association’s attorney. During this period, the members should have information provided about the proposed changes. As to the question about the president or board refusing the request, that is a matter you need to discuss with the board. However, any letter should have some answer even if they only say they will take the request under discussion.
Q. In my HOA, our documents say that no cars can park overnight in the street. They continue that all vehicles must be parked in a driveway or garage. The key reason for this rule is that our streets are narrow and emergency vehicles could be blocked from entering. We have a county employee who drives a county car and he parks this car in the street in front of his home. The HOA violation committee will not take action to force him to remove the car from the street. They state that it is their reading of the documents government vehicles are exempted from this rule. How would you suggest that I approach this violation that the committee refuses to enforce?— T.E.
Apollo BeachA. Just because there is a government vehicle, to include a police or sheriff’s car, does not give that vehicle special parking privileges. Unless there are special marked parking spots, they must comply with the rules and regulations. I would make a quick call to the county to verify if the association can exempt the vehicle from the parking rules. Once you have the information, send a letter addressed to the board with the information. In your letter, you should report that the committee is not enforcing the rules and they are quoting the document that does not address the situation. Explain that the car can restrict an emergency vehicle and result in the delay of such vehicles from reaching. Continue that you are concerned about this possible life-threatening situation. Request that the board review the committee’s decision not to enforce the rules.