4th Annual CA Festival This Month in Venice

There's a great opportunity for managers and board members of resident owned communities scheduled for Wednesday, April 16, at the Venice Community Center.   It's the 4th Annual Community Association Festival, complete with free breakfast and lunch, prizes, food, steel drums, lots of Hawaiian shirts (wear one if you're attending) and informative and interesting presentations from experts on topics like banking, insurance, plumbing problems, and engineering issues.

We'll also be breaking into three separate groups (one each for board members and managers in condominiums, cooperatives, and deeded subdivisions) for legal updates specifically geared for each group.  I'm pleased to once again be presenting the legal update for the cooperative association board members and managers.

Again, this is a free event.   Registration starts at 8:30, the presentations will run until 12:30 or so, and a free barbecue lunch will follow. 

If you want to attend, all you need to do is email Deanna Mixon at DeannaM@SPTPlumbing.com.

Free food, prizes, steel drums, and information:  sounds like a great way to spend the first part of the day!

If you are a newly elected or appointed board member in a cooperative and are looking to fulfill the educational requirement for board certification (or if you just want to become better informed about the laws governing cooperative associations) , I'll be presenting my Cooperative Board Member Certification course on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, at Molokai, which is at 1 Hawaiian Way in Leesburg. Registration starts at 9:15 a.m. and the course begins at 10 a.m. and should conclude by no later than 1 p.m.  Please rsvp by email to Frank@mid-fl-roc.com if you wish to attend.

I hope to see many of you later this month at Molokai or at the Venice Community Center!

CA Day, Community Matters, and Board Training

I'm posting a link for tomorrow's Community Association Day scheduled at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.   CA Day is always a very well attended event with tremendous opportunities for ROC Board Members to learn, network, and have fun.   Admission is free but if you have a chance to rsvp for the event please do so.   We anticipate a record-breaking turnout this year.

I'll also be taping this Saturday's edition of  "Community Matters" at CA Day after participating in the attorneys' panel discussion and look forward to a very busy morning tomorrow.

My first three certification training presentations for board members in cooperative associations have been completed and I am very pleased with the attendance and the questions and comments I've received.   I have co-op board member certification training courses scheduled for March 26 at Imperial Bonita Estates in Bonita Springs and April 8 at Molokai in Leesburg.

I hope to see many of our ROC friends at CA Day tomorrow, later this month at Imperial Bonita Estates, or in April at Molokai.

Enjoy this first day of Spring!

One More Date for Co-op Board Member Training

Our first certification training course for board members of resident owned cooperative associations was a great success with over 80 attendees earlier this week at Westwinds Village in Bradenton.  Thanks to everyone that attended and to Westwinds for its great hospitality.

We've added one more date to those we've already scheduled:

  • Wednesday, March 26th at Imperial Bonita Estates in Bonita Springs.   We'll start at 10 a.m. and should end by no later than 1:00 p.m.   There's no charge and light refreshments will be served.

Please keep in mind that my board certification course has only been approved for board members in cooperative associations but all board members and candidates board positions are invited to attend.

Please email Karen Midlam (kmidlam@lutzbobo.com) or Kathy Sawdo (ksawdo@lutzbobo.com) to rsvp for this or any of the other training courses I am offering during the next few months.

All of my blog readers will find this week's episode of "Community Matters" very interesting and entertaining.  My guest will be a wildlife trapper and we'll be spending the hour talking about feral cats, hogs, coyotes, bears, bobcats, and other uninvited visitors to our resident owned communities.  "Community Matters" can be heard Saturday morning at 11 on WSRQ Radio (1220 AM and 106.9 FM in Sarasota and Manatee Counties) or online at sarasotatalkradio.com.  You can also listen to our podcasts that are usually posted on the Monday after the show.

Have a great weekend and hope you enjoy the weather!

Time for Co-op Board Member Training!!

Welcome to the new world of training for board members in our resident-owned cooperatives!

Annual meeting season has begun and new board members are being elected.  As you know, Florida Statutes now require that newly elected or appointed board members either certify in writing to the co-op’s secretary that the new board member has read the association’s bylaws, articles of incorporation,  proprietary lease, and current written policies, that the board member will work to uphold those documents to the best of his or her ability, and that the board member will faithfully discharge his or her fiduciary responsibility to the association’s members---or, instead of providing that written certification, a newly elected or appointed board member can submit a certificate of having satisfactorily completed a seminar approved by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) for training co-op board members.  This must be done within 1 year before or 90 days after the new board member’s election or appointment. 

I’m pleased and excited to announce that my course materials were approved by the DBPR late last year and I’ve scheduled my three hour program for 4 separate locations in the next few months:

  •  Wednesday, February 12, starting at 9:30 a.m. at Westwinds Village in Bradenton
  •  Wednesday, February 19, starting at 9:30 a.m. at Country Club Estates in Venice
  •  Tuesday, March 18, starting at 10 a.m. at Hammock Estates in Sebring
  •  Tuesday, April 8, starting at 10 a.m. at Molokai in Leesburg

My program is specifically designed for board members in co-ops and is NOT approved for certification of board members in condominium associations or homeowners associations governed by Chapter 720 of the Florida Statutes.

There is no admission charge and light refreshments will be served.   All co-op board members, whether or not newly elected or appointed, are encouraged to attend.  Even if those board members don’t need to be “certified,” I’m sure they’ll find the three hours worthwhile.  The price is right and everyone will have an opportunity to meet fellow board members from neighboring communities.

We do need to have a good idea of the number of current or new board members (or candidates for the board if your elections have not yet occurred) in order to make sure our host communities have enough refreshments and seating, so please RSVP to Karen Midlam (kmidlam@lutzbobo.com() or Kathy Sawdo (ksawdo@lutzbobo.com) at your earliest convenience.

Depending on the needs of our friends in Lee, Collier, and Pasco Counties, we’ll schedule either a board training program or one of our regular community association “roundtables” in those areas in the very near future.

I look forward to seeing many of you at one of these board training sessions in the next few months and I hope all of you are enjoying a very happy and healthy beginning to 2014.

 

A First Hand Look at Fair Housing

I woke up one morning this summer with a pain in the area of my right shoulder blade.  I assumed that I'd just pulled or strained a muscle in my neck or back--that's a fairly common but very temporary hazard of lifting weights and trying to maintain an active lifestyle for us "baby boomers".

Six weeks later, it was clear that there was more involved than just a muscle strain.  By the time my MRI revealed that I had several herniated discs in my neck, the discomfort and pain radiating down my right arm into my hand made it difficult--if not impossible--for me to work at my desk or on my computer for more than a few minutes at a time.

While I've managed to cope by answering emails on my iPhone, on my home laptop, or by installing an unwieldy device on my office chair, I feel like I'm functioning at perhaps 50% capacity and by the time I leave the office at the end of the day I can't wait to collapse on a couch at my home with an ice pack on my aching shoulder.

Here's the point I'd like to make today:  there's absolutely no way anyone can tell how much pain and discomfort I feel--I have no cast, sling, nor any other visible signs to show that I have a condition that causes me great pain and will require surgery to correct.  

Not every disability is readily apparent. Board members and managers in resident owned communities are often requested to grant requests for reasonable accommodations under the Fair Housing Act to persons who show no outward signs of any disability.

I've continually stressed to ROC board members and managers the tremendous risks involved when a board refuses to grant a resident's request for a reasonable accommodation simply because there's no visible evidence that the resident is disabled.

As someone who has now "walked in the shoes" of many of these residents, I have a much better understanding of their anger and frustration when their legitimate requests are denied by ROC boards.  That anger and frustration may very well lead to a Fair Housing complaint and that's certainly not in the best interests of an association or its members.

I'll be submitting my materials for a board certification training seminar to the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes later this week and hope to have those materials approved within the next few weeks.  These materials will focus on training board members in resident owned cooperatives and once approved will be sufficient for those board members to meet the new board certification requirements under Chapter 719 of the Florida Statutes.

Once I get the approval from the Division, we'll schedule a few board training seminars and I'll post the times and locations on my blog.

In the meantime, I'll be taking care of those herniated discs within the next few days and hope to be back at work and posting entries on this blog before all of our "snowbirds" return for the holidays!

 

 

A Follow Up on HOA Registration

In the week or so since my last entry, I've been contacted by managers and board members from several resident owned cooperatives who have received notices about the new recent requirement for mandatory homeowners associations to register with the State. 

I want to clarify that condominium associations formed under Florida Statute Chapter 718 and cooperative associations formed under Florida Statute Chapter 719 do not have to worry about this new requirement as these associations have already registered with Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The new registration requirements apply to mandatory homeowners associations governed by Chapter 720 of the Florida Statutes --not condominiums or cooperatives.

I'd suggest that a manager or board member of any condominium or cooperative association that receives one of these notices contact his or her attorney and provide that attorney with a copy of that notice.   Other than the DBPR's press release, which was included in my last entry, I don't know of any other official notice that would be sent by the State and I'm concerned that one or more enterprising services may be offering to "help" an unsuspecting community register (for a fee, or course) even if the community is not required to do so.

Several of the resident owned cooperative associations we work with have the phrase "homeowners association" in their corporate name.  Those associations are nonetheless still cooperatives governed under Chapter 719 regardless of the fact that their unit owners refer to themselves as members of a "homeowners association". 

When it comes to some cooperatives (as well as some condominiums and non-mandatory homeowners associations), a rose by any other name may still be a rose.

Again, if you have any questions about whether these new registration requirements apply to your association, please contact your association's attorney.

 

Website for HOA Registration Announced

I was just forwarded a press release from Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation announcing the creation of its website for mandatory homeowners' associations to register online.

As my blog readers may recall, Florida's legislature recently passed a law that for the first time requires all mandatory homeowners' associations (governed under Chapter 720 of the Florida Statutes) to provide certain information to the State.  Community Association Managers should remember that it appears from this legislation that any CAM that manages an HOA is responsible for filing this information.

The content of this press release follows:

To: Members of the media

Date: September 27, 2013

From: DBPR Communications Office, 850.922.8981

 

Registration website for HOA and Community Association Managers live

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) today launched the website where homeowners associations (HOA) and Community Association Managers (CAM) are now required to register. The website was created as part of recently passed state legislation (Chapter 720, FS), which requires community association managers, community association management firms or HOAs, in the absence of a CAM, to report information about the associations before the deadline of November 22, 2013.

 

“We’ve worked really hard to create a website that collects all of the data required by law to track the number of homeowners associations in the state,” said Secretary Ken Lawson. “It’s important that associations become aware of the new reporting requirement and meet the deadline.”

 

During the 2013 Legislative Session, HB 7119 made several changes to HOA governance, including the requirement for HOA associations to register with DBPR. Additionally, the legislation provided DBPR with authority to take administrative action against a community association manager’s license for violations of state laws relating to condominiums, cooperatives and homeowners’ associations that are committed during the course of performing contractual community management services.

 

Associations may now register with the Department at www.myfloridalicense.com/hoa. If individuals have any questions throughout the one-time registration process, they may contact the Department at 800.226.9101.

 

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s mission is to license efficiently and regulate fairly. The Department licenses and regulates more than one million businesses and professionals ranging from hotels and restaurants, real estate agents and certified public accountants to veterinarians, contractors and cosmetologists. For more information, please visit www.MyFloridaLicense.com.

We'll next have to wait and see exactly what type of curriculum the DBPR's developed to meet the new laws requiring newly appointed board members in cooperatives and mandatory HOA's to meet the educational or certification requirements previously only applicable to board members in condominium associations.   That's an entry for another day.

 

Bank Failures and Back Taxes

 The Sarasota Herald Tribune just published a very informative six day report on the reasons for the many bank failures in Florida during the "Great Recession."   

Since almost every ROC in our state has been affected by questionable loans that have been foreclosed or are currently in the process of foreclosure, I thought my blog readers might be interested in the Herald Tribune's series.

I'm also posting the link to one of Tom Lyons' columns in the Herald Tribune published earlier this week as a reminder to owners in resident owned communities.   There is a tax due and owing to the State of Florida when a mobile home, site built home, or condominium is rented on a "short term" basis and the failure to pay that tax will not be taken lightly by our state's enforcement agencies.

Just a word to the wise:  pay the tax on those rentals!

Among the guests on this week's edition of "Community Matters" is Sarasota County's sheriff--I have a feeling that benefits and dangers of "neighborhood watch" programs will be one of the topics on the agenda.  I hope you'll take the opportunity to listen to our guest host, Cindi Bass, this Saturday morning at eleven or on our podcast released early next week.

 

Repairs versus Spending Limits in ROCs

Briny Breezes is a resident owned manufactured housing cooperative located in Palm Beach County.

Two of the community's sea walls that protected the cooperative property needed repairs and upgrades.   The directors of Briny Breezes, Inc., the cooperative association that owns and operates the community, hired an engineer who reported that the required repairs and upgrades to the seawalls would cost approximately $150,000.

While there were adequate funds in the association's reserve account to pay for these repairs, Briny Breeze's governing documents clearly prohibited the association's board of directors from spending more than $30,000 for capital improvements or spending more than $30,000 for replacement of capital assets in any fiscal year.  According to the association's governing documents, the affirmative vote of at least 51 per cent of the members was required for these expenditures.

Earlier this year, Briny Breeze's manager asked the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes (the "Division") to determine whether the association's board of directors could use the reserve funds to pay for the seawall repairs that were needed to protect the cooperative property without obtaining the approval of the association's members.

The Division, in its Declaratory Statement issued this May, held that the association could use its reserve funds to make the needed repair to the seawalls without a vote of the membership.

The Declaratory Statement cited Florida Statutes Section 719.104(5), a federal bankruptcy court decision interpreting Florida law, several decisions of our state appellate courts and a decision rendered by one of the Division's arbitrators. 

The Division noted that , even if expenditures result in alterations or improvements to the community's common elements, it is within the board's authority to authorize these expenditures without member approval where the expenditures for the alterations or improvements are needed to protect the common elements.

At the same time, the Division did caution that an association's directors might very well be precluded from unilaterally spending money for upgrades that constituted material alterations to the common elements and went beyond the repairs required to protect the common elements.

The Division concluded that, while the "safest course for the board is to get a unit owner vote", the board should not be limited to "simply repair the sea wall to protect the common elements."

Hopefully, this Declaratory Statement will provide ROCs with some guidance in the future.

I'll be discussing issues affecting aging members of resident owned communities this week on "Community Matters".

Furry Companions and Service Animals next on "Community Matters"

You'll want to catch our next installment of "Community Matters" as Kevin Wells and I will be discussing therapy and companion pets and service animals with the manager of a large resident owned community in Sarasota County and a representative from Southeastern Guide Dogs.

"Community Matters" airs on WSRQ (1220 AM and 106.9 FM) on Saturday mornings from 11 to noon and online at www.sarasotatalkradio.com.   Podcasts of each of our shows are made available on Mondays after the show airs at the WSRQ site--just click on my photo and you'll be able to listen to those podcasts.

If you have any questions about this topic or suggestions for future shows, please feel free to post a comment to my blog or email me at sgordon@lutzbobo.com.

I hope you enjoy this Saturday's installment of "Community Matters".