Q. Is a parliamentarian appropriate for a condominium board or would a governance committee be more appropriate? J.A. — Tampa
A. Many association documents require that meetings be held in accordance to Roberts Rules, parliamentary procedures. The problem is that Roberts is a broad based set of rules of meeting operations and procedures and does not necessary support association business. In addition, Roberts conflicts with statutes in a few situations. Go back to the basis of meetings. At a board meeting, the purpose is for the board to conduct business and to make decisions on operations. The directors were elected to operate the association and the method that the statutes require is to make those decisions at an open meeting. The statutes do allow members input but at the same time limit their participation. Meetings need to be planned and Roberts as well as the statutes can provide guidance in this area. The board should adopt a detailed meeting policy and follow that policy. I believe that if the board adequately plans the meeting but does not necessarily follow Roberts to the final word, as long as the meeting progresses in an orderly way and the business is completed, then let the directors move at their own pace.
Q. The board of directors of my condominium association has announced that they will be canceling our windstorm insurance coverage. It went up to $300,000 from $155,000 last year. Instead of increasing maintenance fees, they would rather cancel the coverage and do a special assessment in the event of a hurricane. What is your advice? Will lack of windstorm coverage affect financing options? L.F. — Miami
A. Ouch. They are making a decision that they may not have the right to make. Not only may they be in violation of the association documents, they may be in violation of state statutes. I am sure that some mortgage companies that have mortgages on units will be upset and may call the loans or even worse buy the insurance coverage at a second market price. Buyers may find that they cannot obtain mortgages, which may in turn drop the market value of the units. It is better to pay the price rather than decrease the values.
Q. I was very interested in your article on contractors insurance as that has been a topic of conversation within our board. I agree what you have stated about certificates of insurance. Our policy is that the certificate of insurance comes directly from the insurance agent, not the vendor. With today’s copier capabilities, it is not difficult for a certificate to be altered, which would be difficult if not impossible to detect. It puts a burden on the agency to notify certificate holders if the insurance coverage changes. Additionally we had verbiage in our contracts that put the burden on the contractor to obtain and provide certificates for any sub-contractors used by him. I used this procedure in my northern business; does this approach apply here in Florida as well? J.M. — Marco Island
A. You are correct in that the certificate should come directly from the insurance company or insurance agent and not the vendor. However, I have encountered another problem of which you should be aware. A vendor contracted and the agent issued a current and valid certificate of insurance. Shortly after the contract was signed, the vendor canceled the insurance. We were able to stop the work and cancel the contract because the insurance company notified to the association. Associations must be fully aware of vendor insurance and be named as an additional insured.
Q. Is it legal to charge state tax on membership dues? We have a golf membership, and each month there is a hefty sales tax applied. G.L. — Stuart
A. Sales tax is not due on maintenance fees. However, if you add in a service like golf fees you have another problem and, yes, sales tax should be collected and paid to the state.
Q. Can a board member give a proxy to another board member to use in a future board meeting? The board would not have a quorum without the absent member. L.L. — Tarpon Springs
A. No. A proxy is not valid for a board meeting. If a director cannot attend, the board can use a speaker phone and the absent director will be counted as present and can vote by speaker phone. Sometimes the documents allow a joinder to vote on certain items. However a joinder does not count for quorum and is only a supporting vote by an absent director after the meeting. If you do not have a quorum of directors, you do not have a meeting and no business can be conducted.
Q. We would very much appreciate your thoughts on the timely topic of storm shutter usage. Our HOA documents prohibit the long-term installation or closing of storm shutters. They are only allowed when a storm warning is issued, and must be removed or opened immediately after the storm danger has passed. The reason is two-fold; boarded up homes are very unattractive and also can invite burglary or other crimes. Some of our winter seasonal residents are protesting this rule, claiming they should be allowed shutter their homes when they head north in the spring, and keep them shuttered until they return in the fall. Obviously, our year-round residents oppose this change, suggesting that our snowbirds contract with some one to have their shutters attended to if and when necessary. Is our existing rule sound and reasonable? F.C. — Hudson
A. I receive many complaints about my remarks with reference to shutters not being installed while the snowbirds are away. I totally agree with your policy of only allowing shutters during storm threats. I will add that a closed apartment will generate more mold and mildew. Another problem was revealed on April 18, 2006 when a fire developed in a condominium in Cocoa Beach. The fire department reported that hurricane shutters that were installed by an absentee owner who was away for the summer hampered them in entering the apartment to fight the fire. They reported that they had to chop their way through the shutters and because they did not have the proper chopping tool immediately handy, it took them several minutes to gain entry. Some counties and cities now do not allow shutters to be installed except during storm threats. It is not justification that it will make it easy for them while they are away, it is the situation of being considerate of their full time neighbors as well as it may be a safety issue.
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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.