Q. We live in a small condominium association. I cannot find anything in our documents or the rules that we are not allowed to use plywood on our windows during a hurricane. We have put them up in the past years but now the board says that we cannot use plywood. To purchase shutters is an expense we do not feel we need. We put the plywood up before the storm and remove it the next morning or whenever the winds died down. N.G. — Madeira Beach
A. The statutes, FS 718.113(5), say the board shall adopt hurricane shutter specifications. They should include the color, style and other factors deemed relevant by the board to comply with building code and building design. The board may be required to comply with insurance requirements and local building codes in order to obtain insurance coverage. In that case, the board can approve provision in the condominium documents that normally requires the members to approve such changes. A board shall not refuse to approve the installation or replacement of hurricane shutters conforming to the specifications adopted by the board (FS 718.113) and complies with the building codes. As to plywood, unless it is properly installed, it may not provide sufficient protection and can be ripped off and become a flying missile causing additional damage.
Q. My understanding is that as long as the board consists of a quorum, and unless a member resigns, is recalled or dies, a board cannot just appoint another member. We must wait for annual election and hope that members run for the board positions. P.T. — Miami
A. Most associations are formed under FS 617. Section FS 617.0809 says that the remaining directors must fill any vacancy. That means the directors vote on appointing a new director. That action must be taken at the next board meeting or as soon as possible. It is not in the best interest of the association or the board to neglect to fill a vacancy.
Q. The association’s master insurance policy was recently canceled and we are having a very difficult time finding new insurance. I am wondering if there is a way to remove the condominium requirements so each unit can provide their own insurance. N.M. — Clearwater
A. In almost all situations, the answer is no. You must seek information from an insurance agent and your attorney. If any owner has a mortgage, you would need to have their approval and that is almost impossible. Continue to search for an agent who will help locate coverage. If you call an agent and he/she says they do not have any policy to help, ask them for the names of other agents.
Q. Can a HOA have a meeting to vote to change bylaws without notifying the owners more than 48 hours in advance and without an opportunity for all owners to discuss the changes openly? I.T. — Naples
A. Your documents should spell out how they can be altered or changed. In most situations, the owners should be notified of the pending change and have time to review the recommended changes. The bylaw section of the documents usually defines the method of conducting business and many times the board can alter these with a vote at a board meeting. Here is an example: say the bylaws read that a board meeting must be conducted each month on the first Monday at 7 p.m. The board wants to change the meeting to the first Tuesday of each month. Most bylaws can be altered with a simple vote of the board to have the meetings on Tuesday. The substance of the change would dictate the communications and what involvement the owners require. I always recommend that if the documents are changed or altered, the board consult with and receive guidance from an attorney.
Q. Our condominium budget for 2006 was $176,000. We did not get our insurance premium until February and it was $ 22,000 higher than we budgeted. A poll/survey of owners decided to not raise maintenance, but to special assess the shortage this year. Is our 2006 budget still considered $176,000 or is it now $198,000? I feel it should be considered $198,000 as we had to assess for the insurance increase. I am concerned owners may feel the $176,000 is the budget when figuring the 115 percent maximum increase before owners can appeal. We will definitely exceed that for the 2007 budget if we use $176,000 as our budget basis for 2006. We expect our 2007 insurance to increase next year. P.P. — Ft. Lauderdale
A. A budget is a tool. It is a guide based on an estimate of expenses. The budget does not change just because you receive an expense that was not calculated. You need to understand that the board underestimated an expense. The feelings of the owners should not be part of the decisions by the board when it comes to a decision of recalculating the budget or approving a special assessment. The board has a fiduciary duty to assess the members to meet the expenses. Do not let the 115 percent be part of your decision to establish an adequate budget next year. You estimate the expenses to the best of your ability and let the increase apply where needed. Let the owners present an alternate budget if they feel your budget is too high.
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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.