Q. I have a condominium and reside there part time. We have cable TV through the association but would like to have satellite, which the association does not allow. I thought there was a law stating that an apartment or condominium association cannot stop tenants or owners from putting up a dish. Is this correct? N.N. — Stuart
A. You are referring to the Telecommunications Act. That act allows owners to install dishes with some restrictions. However, it primarily addresses homes in homeowner associations. In condominiums, the act has limited powers. The primary limitation is that it does not apply to the common areas. The fact is that the board of directors does not have the right to allow dishes to be placed on or in the common areas. That means that the members must approve placement of dishes on common areas, not the board. However, an owner can place the dish within his property or maybe on his balcony. The board can put certain restriction on just where a dish can be placed in the limited common area, the balcony, or how it is attached to the wall. One such restriction would be that the dish can not extend over the rail or vertical exterior of the building. In so many words, this means half of the building does not face the right direction to receive the signal will be unable to install a dish on their balcony.
Q. With all the reports of hurricanes expected, what is the board’s responsibility? I have never been exposed to these storms and do not know what to expect. This is my first summer in Florida and I am afraid of what I hear. M.K. — Ft. Pierce
A. The board only has responsibility to prepare the common areas for the storm and to recover the common areas after the storm. Most of your safety is your responsibility. You must prepare before the storm to provide necessities of life. Several big-box stores, radio stations, TV stations, and newspapers publish pamphlets on how to prepare. Many boards will offer assistance for owners, but it is a neighborly thing rather than a requirement. You must have food, medical supplies and other necessities of life for a few days of self-survival. Keep in mind that most deaths are caused by rising water and most injuries are caused by flying objects. That means that if you are near the water, evacuate, and everyone should take cover against flying objects. I have one question for you: Do you have bottled water in the home to last for a week? If not, you need to start gathering your emergency supplies to include water, flashlights, batteries and food. Make sure you have a battery radio or TV and a phone that does not operate on electricity. One last thing, if you are told to evacuate, take immediate action and go.
Q. Do unit owners have the right to get copies of contracts with vendors? Is there a procedure? D.S. — Miami Beach
A. Vendor contracts are considered official records and may be reviewed when an owner sends a certified letter requesting to view the specific records. If the owner requests copies, the association may charge a reasonable cost to copy the records. Owners are entitled to any official record but the request must be specific as to the document or documents they wish to inspect or copy. To say you want to review the financial records, may be most difficult to fulfill because the financial records may be stored in several boxes, sometimes they are housed in public storage. In other words, it could be a massive undertaking and you may find yourself lost in the abundance of information. Be very specific about what you want to see. Keep in mind that to ask to inspect the records may cause an expense for the association.
Q. We are a condominium association. Our recently elected board has started the practice of posting owner’s complaints along with snide remarks by the president and manager about the complaining owner and the complaint. What are the ethics and/or legality of this practice? B.J. — Hollywood
A. While there is nothing illegal about the posting of owner’s letters, a moral problem results in embarrassment of their neighbors. One dilemma of association life is the failure of the owners and board members to respect each other. We need a kinder and gentler appreciation of all residents and the board. Being a good owner and director requires tolerance of neighbors. The posting of letters is closing off support from the owners. All associations, the members and the directors need to understand that neighbors should not be embarrassed or humiliated. If the board does not like the question, then their answer should start thank you for the opportunity to review your question or remark. It is your neighborhood and your association. Make friends and respect their legal actions and questions. After a harassing owner attacks me, as the manager, I always ended the encounter with a thank you discussing your ideas.
Q. My neighbor is a hoarder and packrat and has debris from floor to ceiling. I have asked management for help and they called the fire department. They told management they could not do anything to force her to clean up her unit. Efforts to contact her husband, who does not live in the unit, have been made by management to no avail. I do not feel safe living near to this situation. It is not only a fire hazard, but also a roach and rat infestation problem. She needs help since this is a compulsive-obsessive mental disorder. I would appreciate any suggestions you can give. A.M. — Seminole
A. This is an unusual situation but from time to time associations do have a problem with people that seem to want to collect miscellaneous items. I have seen collectors of all types of items such as tin cans, newspaper, magazines, old clothing, fast food boxes and cardboard boxes stacked to the ceiling, to name a few items. They usually have them stacked in piles around their home, but sometimes it covers the floor from wall to wall and becomes several inches thick. In some cases, you can hardly walk in the home for the stacks and piles of trash. Since the fire department is of no help, try the health department or maybe county social services. Since the husband will not help, try to locate a son or daughter or other relative. The problem is that the collector has a mental problem and the board does not have powers usually to deal with mental cases. If the board cannot directly correct the problem by writing letters, then the matter should be turned over to the attorney. Sometimes, very rarely, the board can cause a judge to commit an owner.
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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.