Q. We currently have a situation where one of our ground floor condominiums has been listed for sale. The seller rarely opened the doors or windows because of previous health problems. The buyer had a property inspection that indicated the unit has a radon gas problem. The Realtor has come to the association seeking permission to install a fresh air intake that supposedly will alleviate the problem. Do we have the right to raise issue with not only the test, but also the installation of a fresh air intake that they claim needs to be installed near the front door? D.M. — Naples
A. Radon is a natural occurring gas that is radioactive. It is found in the ground in Florida and ever other state and can seep into houses that are closed with little air circulation. A simple fix is to circulate and vent the air as suggested. I do not see any problem as long as a fan and vent works. The problem comes when air circulation and venting does not work. Then an engineer must find how the radon is entering the home. Most of the time radon enters through cracks or holes in the foundation and floor. Then repairs must be made to seal the entry points. I would recommend that you let the fan and vent be installed and hope that it corrects the problem.
Q. I live in golf course community. We have a board member who has placed himself in charge of diagnosing and trying to fix our massive sprinkler system. He considers himself an expert on many things. As a result, some of our sprinklers have been broken and have not been fixed for several months. The grass is dying and the hedges show the lack of water. What recourse do I have? Is there any statute that states that we should be able to hire licensed professionals to diagnose and fix our mechanical problems in a timely fashion? P.B. — Tampa
A. A problem with many retirement communities is that the members sometimes think they can save money by doing the work. They have the time and will to do good. Several problems result from this action. First, most times insurance will not cover them for injury or liability. Since they are volunteers, you may be unable to supervise them or their work. There is an underlying problem that few understand and that is the cost that should be applied to the budget for the work. In your situation, how much is he saving the association? That amount needs to be included in the budget as an expense even if it is not paid. Sometime down the road, he will retire and then the association will need to include the amount in the budget. In other words, the expense saving is a false record in the financial records. In the past to overcome this deficiency when I managed a retirement community with many volunteers, we had a line item in the financial report called volunteer services. This way we could debit the expense and credit volunteer services. There is more to having residents do the work than to occupy their time and keep them busy.
Q. What is the course of action by a board of directors when a unit owner at the annual meeting under new business on the agenda makes a motion and is seconded by another unit owner? Is this legal by the unit owner or does the board of directors have a responsibility not to entertain this motion? B.T. — Hobe Sound
A. It appears that it was not an agenda item and thereby an improper motion. The chairperson should notify the members present that the motion was not presented before the meeting. Such a question must be presented in time to be part of the agenda and cannot be accepted for voting or discussion. The members must understand that if the motion was not circulated to all the members in advance of the meeting, then those not attending could complain that they did not have a chance to review the question. Only agenda items can be discussed and voted upon.
Q. As secretary of a cooperative, several individuals have asked that I send minutes of all board of directors meetings to them. What is my obligation under the Florida statutes? — West Palm Beach
A. Minutes are official records and members have a right to view the records. In the event that members request a copy, the association is allowed to charge for copies. If they ask you to mail the minutes, you can add postage, as well. I would recommend that a policy be created that whenever any request is made to view records or to obtain copies the member be required to put the request in writing and send or deliver it to the office. For the minutes, this may mean that they have to send a letter each month. While I do not recommend the following procedure, I have used it when I have the time: Allow the member to give to the office stamped self-addressed envelopes and deposit a small sum to cover copy costs. This works well for snowbirds but it does cause a burden and extra responsibility on the board or manager.
Q. I currently serve on the board of a large association. There have been occasions when we have felt it necessary to go into executive session to discuss human resource issues and discussions pertaining to legal representation. Minutes have always been taken at these meetings. An employee has stated that these sessions are illegal and that he should never be asked to leave a meeting when we convene for executive session. Our president has made an inquiry to our attorney, and the attorney stated that the board may never go into executive session without it being duly noticed, with agenda, and that the attorney be present. He further stated that at no time may there be discussions amongst the board when there is a quorum. Would you please provide us with your interpretation on the laws pertaining to executive session, and informal discussions among the board? P.D. — Naples
A. Your question is very common in that I receive hundreds of questions similar to yours. It seems that each week I answer the same question regarding private meetings of board members. If you read the statutes, both the condominium and HOA acts say that anytime you have a quorum of directors meeting to discuss association business, it must be open to the members. To bypass the statutory requirements your board can create an executive committee, not composed of a quorum of directors, with instructions as to their mission. They can meet in private. It appears to me that your attorney is providing good advice. Maybe you need to have your officers, less than quorum, meet to discuss the problems and then report back to the board of directors at the next board meeting or compose a report in writing and send it to the directors.
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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.