Richard White: Board has responsibility to keep insurance up to date

Q. As the units and properties in a condominium association become worth more and will cost more to repair or restore, who’s responsible to keep the insurance value up to date? From the stories I hear, a major repair could cause assessments so large it could drive people to bankruptcy if we do not have proper coverage. I say it is the property manager. Can not they at least do that as one of their duties? Is not this one of the things they are paid for? M.O. — Clearwater

A. Members elect the board of directors and the board has total responsibility for the business actions for the association. While management can advise the board, they cannot take action without approval of the board. Management usually has the duty to monitor insurance to make sure it does not expire and this would include advising the board of directors on recommended coverage. Your insurance agent would have more input to the board and is part of the team along with your CPA and attorney to counsel on insurance coverage. In large associations, I recommend that an insurance appraisal be completed often, such as every other year, to indicate the increased value. But, such an appraisal costs several thousand dollars and many boards do not want to cause such a large expense. The manager can do nothing more than advise the board and it is up to the board to seek outside advice or not. The question needs to be directed to your board of directors, as they are responsible.

Q. Recently, an owner asked the board of directors for permission to enclose a portion of his carport. The board originally agreed to allow it but then they decided to ask our attorney if they have the authority to allow it. His opinion is that we need to amend the documents to allow it. Knowing the attorney’s opinion, can the board vote to approve the owner’s request without changing the documents? M.S. — Key Largo

A. In a majority of times, the attorney’s advice is based on his knowledge of the law and his experience of the question concerning the outcome if the matter goes before a judge. In other words, his opinion is based on how to defend a lawsuit concerning the question and legal experience. Since the board has the final authority and responsibility, they can accept or reject the advice. The problem is that if they do not follow the attorney’s advice, the board will be on thin ice if a lawsuit is filed against the association. Boards can make decisions but that does not make it right. Yes, they can approve the alteration and if no one objects and no lawsuit filed, there is no worry and the decision will stand on the merit of the effect.

Q. I am on a committee to develop hurricane shutter specifications. It seems like there ought to be samples of such specifications around. Do you know where I could find such examples? Are there any Web sites? Does the state of Florida have a hurricane shutter specifications for condominiums? I would appreciate any guidance you could give me. J.C. — Orlando

A. There is too much information on the Internet for me to direct you to one or two sites. I would suggest that you use a search engine to start your research. I would go to the county and city building section to see if they have specific codes that you must follow. There are testing laboratories that produce information; one such is the University of Texas wind tests. One example is the Stamford HOA shutter specifications: http://www.stamfordhoa.com/docs/HurricaneShutterSpecs.pdf. Just keep in mind that this is an example layout of the policy and I am not sure whether the shutter specifications comply with local codes. My advice is to start to call and talk to vendors that install shutters. What you will be looking for are the appearance, ease of installation, strength, material and cost. Find out who tested the shutters and what their findings were.

Q. I live in a homeowners association and someone damaged our security gate. The cost to repair was $1,500 and we do not know who did the damage. We are contemplating installing a security camera to help find the next culprit. Do you know if we need to post a sign advising that there is a surveillance camera in place? I have noticed them posted in stores and wondered if that was done to help deter crime or mandated? P.G. — Winter Haven

A. I am not an expert in this area but I am going to give you some observations. I have searched the state statutes and found a few requirements in FS 817 and FS 812 but nothing on warning signs. Primarily, the statutes involve commercial business and the limits such as no cameras in dressing rooms, civil rights and publishing of children’s criminal activities. I am sure that some civil rights authority will also object, but there are cameras almost on every street corner and I do not see signs the warn of pictures being taken. In the case of someone damaging property, it could be more of a deterrent if you post signs rather than hiding a camera. Today’s society demands new electronic security systems. I would ask the dealer that will install your camera system for his opinion.

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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 CAMquestion@cfl.rr.com. To be considered, questions and comments should include the author’s name and city. Questions should be about association operations, not legal matters.

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