How to Keep Malicious Condo Boards From Ruining Your Life
People who purchase Florida condominiums rarely understand that unless they're lucky they could end up with a malicious, rogue condo Board of Directors. These boards could make daily living miserable and in the worst case scenario actually ruin their lives.
This is because few realize that condominiums are governed by special laws due to the fact that they are non profit corporations.
Many of these laws eliminate the rights individuals have when they own homes and leave them at the mercy of those who are charged with making decisions that can either positively or negatively affect them.
For these reasons, it’s important for people to understand what they are doing when they contract to buy a Florida condo and do whatever they can to protect themselves from social or financial misery.
Read and Learn the Document
Potential buyers are always given the opportunity to read the governing documents of a community before they make their purchase. They are asked to sign papers stating that they have read and understand them.
However, these papers are usually long, complicated, written in legalize and difficult for most people to understand.
Furthermore, there is usually only a limited amount of time for buyers to read them because they are emotionally stressed, in the process of making an expensive purchase and are involved in packing and moving.
Many people also assume that what is in these documents won’t affect them. Most just don’t want to be bothered.
A committee has given them the basic rules and answered any questions they have, so they think this takes care of what they need to know.
It doesn’t even come close.
Those who take the time to read the governing documents or have an attorney review and explain them take the first step in protecting themselves in the event a malicious or rogue board takes over and tries to deny them the few rights they have!
At the very least, even after moving into their new homes, people should make sure to read the documents.
They should never assume that all governing documents say the same things, because they do not. So, even if they are moving from one condo to another, the rules of the game can vary significantly.
For example, one might limit the amount of money a board can spend without a community vote, while another might not set any limits at all!
Run for the Board
One of the best ways people can protect themselves is to run for a seat on the Board of Directors.
While doing this does mean that you will be taking on certain responsibilities, it also means that you will be able to vote on issues that other residents will have no say in and also protect your own interests.
For example, Florida law allows boards to borrow as much money as they like, but if your documents don’t have spending limits and you are a Director, you can vote against excessive expenditures and encourage other Directors to vote with you so that residents are not unnecessarily burdened financially.
Also, if your President has become difficult, you can demote him down to the position of Director so that he loses most of his authority. This also protects residents.
Recognize Rogue Boards
State law provides that Boards of Directors are supposed to put the best interests of the community before their own, but this rarely happens.
People who never have been in charge of anything find themselves in powerful positions that give them the rights to manage large budgets, employ contractors, enforce rules and demand that residents behave in specific ways.
In some instances, this power goes to their heads, and they become little “Hitlers”. They publicly shame residents, turn people against one another, manipulate and abuse older residents and try to take rights away from the very people who voted them into office.
Often they get other Directors to support them, so the entire board becomes malicious.
When this happens, your best defense is to make sure you know what your rights are, share this information with other residents and then stand up as a group whenever a Board tries to take advantage of a situation.
Recently, my own board decided that they could amend our documents without taking the vote of the community.
Our group pitched in and contacted an attorney. He put an immediate stop to the problem. This cost a few dollars, but it was the only way we could prevent the Board from taking this illegal action.
Rogue boards don’t like it when residents speak up at meetings. They will do everything to shut them up because they do not want people to get in the way of their agendas.
It is common for them to lie, manipulate and misrepresent, but when people speak up, they let other residents know that they are not being given the whole story.
Recently a Board President stated that she would not put standard shingles on the vote for new mansard materials because they were not up to code, illegal to use and were no longer sold. She said this because she personally wanted to install materials that were much more costly.
People took her at her word until someone stood up and stated that if this was the case, why the big box stores like Home Dept were still selling them and why contractors were still installing them!
Most cell phones today have the ability to make voice recordings. It is always a good idea to use this function when you go to board meetings because doing this
- helps you to remember what was said,
- lets Board members know that what they said will be on record and
- allows you to email the recordings to residents who were unable to attend meetings.
Florida Statutes state that residents are allowed to videotape or record board meetings as long as doing so does not get in the way of meetings and as long as the board is advised that recordings are being made.
They are great to have because they can be replayed for Directors who have lied to residents about various issues.
For example, on Director told people at different meetings that the community had anywhere from 10 to 45 leaking roofs! At last count, it was 15, but there’s no way to know the real count. However, there is a way to show that the Director was lying!
Hire a Lawyer
Nobody wants to become involved in litigation, but unfortunately the laws are set up such that if condo owners feel the need to challenge Board decisions, they have to hire attorneys.
However, before doing so, understand that the state is biased in favor of Boards, so you need to be careful about filing suit.
Boards are protected against most lawsuits, so before you take action, make sure that what you are suing for is a winnable case. A good condo attorney will let you know this in advance.
If you do have a good case, you may be able to get the situation resolved in arbitration, which would save time and money.
However, only certain types of cases can be heard this way.
Hiring a lawyer is a last resort. You should always bear in mind that Directors are elected. If you are unhappy with one or more of yours, you can lobby against them to try and keep them off of the next Board.
If you find that a good number of residents are unhappy with how a Board is behaving, you can ask for a recall of some or all of the directors.
However, this is tricky to do and, unfortunately, people who are recalled can turn around and run for office again the next time there is an election.
Do What You Can to Protect Yourself
Defending yourself against rogue Boards begins the second you are handed a copy of your condominiums declarations
It is then that you should decide whether you really want to own a particular condominium or not.
Always bear in mind that no matter how good the situation may seem it just takes one malicious Board of Directors to damage you both financially and socially.
You now have information that can help you to protect yourself when buying a Florida Condo.
Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it!
If you live in a problem condo, do you think these tips will help you?
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Sondra Rochelle