Q. Can you tell me what a register agent is for and what his duty is? Our register agent resigned and would not give us any information what his duties were. We are a new board of directors and need to know in order to appoint a new agent. H.S. — Stuart
A. A registered agent is a person who receives important communications and immediately disseminates the information to the board of directors. They are appointed to receive legal documents, such as foreclosure notices from banks or lawsuits against the association. In each of these cases, an answer must be made within a very few days. While it may not be the responsibility of the registered agent to answer the correspondence, they must notify the board of directors immediately. You would not want a snowbird named or a person who is away on business a few days at a time throughout the year. That is the reason that you want to name a professional, such as an attorney or a CPA. You may be able to locate a business office that is established to handle business communications. You must register the person with the state with the correct address. It is a very important question, and you must seek out a person who will not let the mail sit on their desk or in their mailbox.
Q. Can one homeowner sue another homeowner for not obeying deed restrictions? V.C. — Port Richey
A. The old saying is that anyone can sue anyone for anything. The final answer is will you be able to convince a judge or jury. That is not an answer that I can provide as you will need to talk to an attorney. In most situations of a deed restriction, the board should take the action to force corrections. If the board does not enforce the deed restriction, you should discuss with your attorney about a suit against the association and board as well as the homeowner. As an example, your neighbor put up a fence between your home and his. The documents say no fences and the board refuses to take any action. You have every right to contact an attorney and seek a judgment against both parties.
Q. We have a new board with limited experience. Is it a good practice to have an audit? Our newly elected board has asked the question but does not have the experience to come up with an answer. V.R. — Miami
A. FS 718.111 and FS 720.303 define which financial reports must be completed. It establishes the different reports: An association with total annual revenues of $100,000 or more, but less than $200,000, shall prepare compiled financial statements. With total annual revenues of at least $200,000, but less than $400,000, they shall prepare reviewed financial statements. With total annual revenues of $400,000 or more they shall prepare audited financial statements. An association with total annual revenues of less than $100,000 shall prepare a report of cash receipts and expenditures. However, if your documents say you need a higher financial report or if there is some reason to expect some irregularities, you should have a report higher than the statutes require. During times when the board changes or a new manager takes over, it is a good idea to have a higher report to establish financial responsibility.
Q. Our homeowners association recently hired a new grass cutter for our common grounds. I am concerned because the person works alone and is a resident and does not have the proper insurance. I am of the opinion he would need Worker’s Compensation. If he should injure himself or someone, I believe it could lead to a lawsuit and possibly some special assessments on the other residents’ part. I would appreciate your opinion on this subject. G.L. — Clermont
A. Any vendor or service must provide proper insurance or the association will have the responsibility for any injury, losses or damage. Many times a small service company will say that they are exempt from Workers’ Compensation and liability coverage. The problem is that with this statement, they fail to say that the association will cover any claim. Simple rules: any time a service is contracted have the vendor provide proof of insurance, and before the service is started, have the vendor provide a certificate of insurance naming the association as an additional insured. To identify any insurance question, I recommend that the board discuss the matter with the association’s insurance agent and the association’s attorney. The fact that the landscaper is an owner creates no exemption if an injury or accident happens. The association will have to pay and the association’s insurance will not cover the loss.
Q. In my association, the documents allow pets in certain sections and disallow in other neighborhoods. Recently, a woman who lives in a neighborhood that restricts pets approached the board with a letter from her physician stating that she needed a dog for her mental well-being. The board granted permission based on a particular section of the Fair Housing Act. I have read the act and have not been able to find such a section. Is there any law that would permit such an action to override the documents that prohibit pets in the restricted areas? A.L. — Largo
A. Most likely, the board was referring to the Americans With Disability Act (ADA). This is a strong act to protect people with disabilities. It is my recommendation that anytime a person brings a letter from their doctor, the board make a strong effort to comply. If the board is concerned about such a request, they should ask the association’s attorney for an opinion letter. Then at a board meeting, make a motion to allow a one-time exception to the rules. The motion should not affect the enforcement of the rules concerning any other owner in the neighborhood.
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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.