Richard White: Board can approve surveillance installation

Q. Can the board of directors of a condominium vote for, and approve, the installation of a surveillance camera system that includes several cameras, conduit and wiring within the common areas of the complex? Alternatively, does the installation of a surveillance system require a vote of the association members? The president of our association says the board only will vote on the surveillance system and will assess a charge to each unit owner to pay for the system. M.S. — Indian Rocks Beach

A. There is a board’s responsibility you rarely hear. It is that the board has some responsibility to the health and welfare of the members and association. There must have been some situation that has caused the board to consider the action. It may have been a recent news item in your neighborhood or maybe criminal action within your community. The consideration of installing a surveillance system may have been vandalism or some other harmful action your association has experienced. With circumstances such as these, the board may have the right to install a system to help reduce the coercion or threats. The short answer is that in most situations as described, the board should have the right to install a minimal surveillance system.

Q. I am vice president of our association. Our problem is with an owner whose behavior is very irrational and suggests a person with dementia or other mental problems. This widow is always harassing our office. She was told the only people who will talk to her are either our property manager or an officer. Our office employee tries to distance himself from this situation, and our manager constantly gets hand-written letters demanding action by the association on her latest fixation. Would it be appropriate to inform this person that her conversations are being recorded as she is constantly threatening to sue the association? We are very interested in what you might have to offer on this situation. M.K. — Port Richey

A. If you are conducting the business of the association correctly, do not worry about an owner who becomes aggressive and makes threats. When an owner uses the threat of suing the association or having their attorney take action, do not continue the discussion. This is what you need to say immediately after such a threat: This conversation is over, have your attorney contact this office. If she continues the threat, turn and walk away or get up and leave the room. In short, once she makes a threat of engaging an attorney, advise her in writing that she is not allowed to talk to any board member or staff and that her attorney must make any future communications. The statutes do not require you to talk to her. As to recording her conversations, you can set up a system but make sure that it is noticed and all members recorded. In other words, do not selectively just record her. As to the notes or letters, keep copies in a file. I would answer each note by a simple return saying something like: Received your note of Jan. 1, 2006 and we are looking into the question. A one sentence return note is important to defuse the situation. When faced with a threatening owner, have someone with you to witness the conversation so try to avoid a one-on-one situation.

Q. Is the housing for older persons act a state law or a federal law? How does one get a copy of the law that applies to the 55 and older restriction on housing in the state of Florida? Can a subdivision already sold out and occupied change the covenants to specify 55 and older persons? If so, what are the requirements and what percentage of the owners must vote to change the subdivisions restrictions? T.S. — Homosassa

A. It is both a federal act and a state act. There is a vast amount of information on the Internet but I would suggest that you contact the Florida Commission On Human Relations, Housing For Older Persons division. One of the best sources of information is the Federal Register, Part IV, 24 CFR Part 100. The Florida Commission may provide a copy and other documents. As to changing your community, you would need to amend your documents. This will require an attorney to guide you through the process and he/she can advise you on the percentage needed to alter the documents.

Q. At our last board meeting, one of members made a statement that earlier that week, either the Florida Legislature passed or was considering a requirement that all architectural review committee meetings would have to have the same public posting of meetings as board meetings. Is this really true? If so, why? The ARC recommendations to be approved and submits them to the board for final approval. Does anyone understand that if this were the case, then the homeowner applying for approval for decisions could be delayed for months? What if there was not a quorum at the posted ARC meeting? Then what? Can you please enlighten as to: Is this true and what thought process even brought this about? D.S. — Tampa

A. As of this date, it is my understanding that the state is considering requiring that ARC meetings be posted the same as a board meeting. However, it is not as constraining as it appears in your question. It is my understanding there would be no material change to the meeting activities except to post notice of the meeting and allow members to observe. As to quorum, committees are usually not as confined as boards. In a committee meeting, it could be possible or the quorum to be one person. Usually ARC committees are two or three committee members and that would be a quorum. I suggest that you watch this proposed change to the law and expect that the only change would be to notice the meeting and open it for the members to observe.

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Richard White is a licensed community association manager in Florida. Questions should be mailed to him at 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd. # 201, Winter Haven, Fl. 33884-4415; e-mail To be considered, questions and comments should include the author’s name and city. Questions should be about association operations, not legal matters.

© 2006 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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