Richard White: No one wants to serve as board president

Q. Our association is able to seat a new board; however, no one on that board which will be seated at our annual meeting next month is willing to serve as president. I have been president for the past two years and will not serve in that capacity any longer. I will remain on the board. None of the other members will accept the presidency. Our management company advises that if after 10 days the board is not able to appoint officers, the current officers will remain in place and elections will have to be held again. If the result of this second election ends up with the same directors and still no one is willing to accept the presidency, do we just keep having elections until someone steps up and says they will be president? We are a small building with a combination of year-round and seasonal residents, but only about 25 percent actively participate in the needs of the building. Your input would be appreciated. T.G. — Clearwater

A. I am not sure of the new election if you cannot have someone assume the duties. An officer does not have to serve for 12 months. Maybe you can suggest that each of the directors serve for a few months, say three months and then another director serve for the next three months, etc. Since you have a management company doing the work, they can assume most of the day-to-day tasks. While I do not like short-term officers, it may be a solution. The board can approve new rules that no owner call or talk to the president or any member of the board directly. That would cut down on their personal time of being disturbed. Owners with problems would need to contact the manager in writing. The manager can chair meetings. That would reduce the duties of the president. The manager would prepare all the meeting documents and present them to the directors before any meeting. The board can approve broad instructions to the manager that would almost eliminate most work time for the officers. If you have these controls, being a president would have limited work and duties.

Q. I live in a condominium that just had the annual election to elect a new board. The old board was re-elected except one new director. Since there were not enough board members present at the meeting, the election of officers was postponed. As of today, such a meeting has not been called; however, the past president who ran again for office took it upon herself to re-elect herself as president. She named a new vice president and the treasurer kept his position with the other two board members being board members at large. My question is whether there should not have been an election of officers among the board members rather than the former president making the decision. E.F. — Marco Island

A. Yes, there should have been a formal election by the directors. However, it appears that the outcome would have been the same. Only a simple motion approved at the next meeting will provide the solution. There needs to be a formal remark in the minutes as to who will serve as the officers. Many times directors and officers forget that at any board meeting, the directors can vote to appoint someone else as an officer. That means that any officer, including the president, can be removed and replaced. Directors must remember that they are responsible for the operations of the association and the officers serve at their will.

Q. Our board has adopted the philosophy that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. They are making rules changes they know are unenforceable on the basis that most owners will not challenge the changes and will abide with the new rules. They have published harsh penalties with threatened legal action against the violators. I think of the kind of board as one that has let power go to their heads. How can owners stop their actions? M.M. — New Port Richey

A. I have said on numerous occasions that the final enforcer of rules is the judge. This also means that the judge will determine if a rule is proper on not. This will be an expensive action to try to enforce an unenforceable rule. Granted that the board has some powers to initiate new rules, but these rules cannot change title rights. As an example, your documents allow dogs. While the board cannot restrict dogs, they can make rules where dogs can be walked. My first answer to changing or creating rules is to have the association attorney review the changes and render an opinion as to the enforceability.

Q. Does the Sunshine Law cover the operation of condominium board meetings and committee meetings, or does it cover only government? K.B. — St. Petersburg

A. The Florida Sunshine Law, FS286.011, involves only government bodies. The answer is that the Sunshine Law does not involve associations. However, the condominium act and the homeowners act have sections that say that anytime a quorum of directors meet to discuss association business, it is considered a board meeting and must be noticed and open to the members. Less than a quorum can meet, conduct business and make limited decisions. In other words, the president and treasurer can meet and sign checks to pay expenses, given that your board has more than three directors. Directors can call and talk on telephones phones, they can send e-mails or perform day-to-day business. The key is quorum.

Q. A 52-year-old man and his 50-year-old wife are planning to purchase a unit in our 55 and older condominium. He wishes to do some fixing up. Can he stay overnight to do this? I feel that he may want to come down a couple times a year and stay for a week or two while he is fixing up. Can we allow this under the 20 percent rule? M.L. — Tampa

A. This appears not to violate the Adult Association Laws; however, each association can place some rules that may disallow the occupancy. The procedures of your association’s operations in enforcing the Adult Community Laws will have some bearing on the answer. The law only requires 80 percent to have one person 55 years of age or older in residence. It could be possible for the new owner to rent the home to someone who is 55 or older. In most situations, I would not be concerned about a new owner who is not 55 or older; however, you must understand that I do not know all the details of your community. In short, it does not appear that this would be a violation of the adult community laws.

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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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