Are You Ready for E-voting?

 Effective July 1, 2015, voting and the conduct of elections in resident owned communities in Florida may be done electronically.  There are numerous conditions that must be met before a unit owner can vote electronically--not the least of which is that the unit or parcel owner must consent to that electronic voting.

Earlier this year, Florida's legislators created three new statutes to provide for the use of an "Internet based online voting system":

  • Florida Statute Section 718.128 for condominium associations
  • Florida Statute Section 719.129 for cooperative associations 
  • Florida Statute Section 720.317 for mandatory homeowners' associations

In addition, existing statutes were revised to allow electronic transmission of notices of most board meetings, membership meetings, and committee meetings even if the association's bylaws don't expressly allow for electronic transmission of these notices.

Moreover, Chapter 617 of the Florida Statutes, which governs not-for-profit corporations, was amended to provide that a copy, facsimile transmission, or other "reliable reproduction" of an original proxy can be used instead of the original proxy as long as that copy, fax, or reproduction is a "complete reproduction" of the original proxy--even if the association's bylaws or articles of incorporation prohibit its use.

As you can imagine, there are more questions than answers raised by these new laws allowing for "online voting".   I have a feeling that community association attorneys (as well as managers and board members) are going to have a very interesting "election season".

Alert: Small Business Scam Targets ROCs

I just finished speaking with the manager of one of the resident owned communities in our area.

An email was received at the community's email address, allegedly from the Federal Trade Commission.  The subject of the email was "NOTIFICATION OF CONSUMER COMPLAINT" and the email contained a very official looking document advising that a customer had complained "about your business and believes you have contravened the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA)".

The document further stated that "Federal Trade Commission has initiated a formal investigation into this complaint" and asked the association to "consider the details of the enclosed letter"--which conveniently did not accompany the email.   Instead, the document advised the association that the letter (which contained the complaint) could be downloaded from a website listed in the document.

The document advised the association that it was "welcome to contact us regarding this matter" using a form that could be downloaded from another website address.

The document closed with the address of the FTC and its website and warned the association that "the FTC is required to post information about businesses who fail to respond to consumer complaints".

Our firm's technology professional quickly determined that the email was yet another scam and located this link that describes the scam in detail.  

You'll note that the Federal Trade Commission advises the recipients of this scam that they should not click on the links to the websites listed  in the email.

Managers and board members of resident owned communities should always be alert for these scams and use common sense--after all, it's doubtful that, even in this day and age, any agency of the federal government would choose email to notify a business of a consumer complaint.

Our best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday weekend.

A New ROC and Interesting Thoughts About Super Storm Sandy

Marty Pozgay, the President of Florida Community Services Group, recently emailed me with the exciting news that his company has helped another manufactured housing community join the ROC family.

On October 15, the residents of Orange Harbor in Fort Myers purchased their park.   Orange Harbor has 364 mobile home sites and 130 recreational vehicle sites and is located on the Intracoastal Waterway and the Orange River.  The purchase price was $36 million and the blanket mortgage financing was provided by Bank of America.

The unit owners' cooperative association that purchased the park is Orange Harbor Co-op, Inc. and the association's President is Sidney Toll.

Congratulations to the residents of Orange Harbor and welcome to the world of resident owned communities!

I just finished reading a blog entry by Bryan Norcross, who some of you may remember from his incredible reporting in Miami during Hurricane Andrew.   He's now one of the tropical weather experts with the Weather Channel and I hope you'll find this entry from his blog at The Weather Underground as entertaining and educational as I did--and that you'll pay close attention to his thoughts on hurricanes and insurance companies.

I'll be speaking at the Mid-Florida ROC meeting at Country Club Manor in Eustis on November 27 and then we'll get into our community association seminar schedule.  I promise to post information on our first set of seminars in the next week or so.  Please let me know if you have any topics you'd like us to cover during our seminar season.

Thanks and I'll look forward to seeing you during the next few months.

 

Reminders for ROCs from Tropical Storm Debby

I've spent most of the past two days following The Weather Channel and watching the water level in the retention pond behind our home continue to rise with each passing hour.  

While full-time Floridians like to joke that hurricane season doesn't start in our neck of the woods until late July or August, Tropical Storm Debby has made it clear that there's an exception to every "rule."

If you've been following Debby, you know that this storm has confounded both weather experts and computer models.  As of this Sunday evening, Debby's center was located in the Gulf of Mexico about 270 miles from Sarasota.  Debby appears to be stationary at this hour and, although it's "only" a tropical storm with sustained winds of 60 miles per hour, Debby's caused at least one death (in Lake Placid in Highlands County) and substantial damage throughout the state.

Tropical Storm Debby highlights some very important reminders for ROC managers, board members, and homeowners:

  •   It's imperative that we not let our guard down.   Last night at this time, the National Hurricane Center's official storm track had Debby headed west toward Texas.   Predicting both track and intensity of tropical storm systems is extremely difficult and complex and conditions (and a storm's path and intensity) can change drastically in a few hours.   There are numerous sites, including the National Hurricane Center's Tropical Prediction Center and Weather Underground, that can provide current information.
  •   While Tropical Storms are not as "powerful" as hurricanes, they can still pack quite a punch.  We've had numerous tornadoes in Florida today, at least one older bridge has been partially washed away, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge was closed for part of the day, and many coastal areas have suffered substantial beach erosion--all of this from a tropical storm well offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. 
  •  It's also important not to focus solely on a tropical system's path, or the National Hurricane Center's "cone".  Debby has spun off storms and tornadoes as well as pounding wave action throughout the day which have severely impacted communities throughout Florida--many of which are hundreds of miles away from Debby's projected track.
  •   Finally, tropical storms and hurricanes are deadly serious events--not opportunities to appear on television (for example, the "surfers" that choose to take their boards into waters when riptide warnings are issued or the "thrill seekers" that feel the need to drive through flooded streets).   When a ROC is threatened by a tropical storm or hurricane, every resident must be prepared to follow the directives of state and local authorities--including a mandatory evacuation order.   As I've mentioned in other entries, "mandatory" means just that.  The failure or refusal to obey a mandatory evacuation order violates state law, and, unless the community's clubhouse is a certified shelter, a resident cannot and should not simply "camp out" in that clubhouse when the evacuation order is issued.

This is the earliest date that we've had a fourth named tropical system in the Atlantic.  Whether or not this signals an extremely active hurricane season this year is unclear.  What is clear is that knowledge, preparation, and common sense in dealing with tropical storms and hurricanes can help spell the difference for ROC managers, board members, and homeowners.

Let's hope that Debby is our only tropical "visitor" this season--but let's be ready just in case!!

ROCs and Fair Housing "Testers"

As many of my readers know, among the topics frequently discussed on this blog are the many issues facing resident owned communities when dealing with the Fair Housing Act.

I've recently been speaking to community association managers and ROC board members about the importance of properly responding to and evaluating requests made by current or prospective residents for reasonable accommodations such as pets or caregivers.

I always begin my presentation with a brief history of the Fair Housing Act and its roots in the Civil Rights movement and the legislation that movement inspired--legislation enacted with the goal of eliminating unlawful discrimination on the basis of characteristics such as race, religion, or disability,

It appears that there is still much to be done before that goal is met.  Last Thursday's Sarasota Herald Tribune reported that housing discrimination is still occurring in Sarasota County.   Investigators found numerous instances of discrimination against minorities and persons with disabilities in Sarasota, Venice, and North Port as well as in the unincorporated areas of Sarasota County.

The article notes that the investigation was conducted, at least in part, by "testers" posing as as persons seeking housing or financing to help purchase homes.

We've been cautioning ROCs for some time  that these "testers" would eventually turn their attention to other areas of our state after focusing on the larger cities on Florida's east coast and the Orlando area.  

Managers and board members in resident owned communities clearly have yet another reason to comply with the Fair Housing Laws.

 

 

Sawmill Resort and Campground Joins the ROC Family

Sawmill Resort and Campground is located near Dade City in Pasco County in west central Florida.   It's in a very rustic area with about 178 spaces for recreational vehicles, a number of existing cabins and camping sites, a general store, a recreational hall that doubles as a night club, and a pool and poolside bar and cafe'.

Earlier today, Sawmill became the latest resident-owned community in Florida as its homeowners association purchased the community after over nine months of hard work by a group of very dedicated individuals.

The price was $4,200,000 and the seller, TPG Campgrounds, LLC, was very capably represented by Attorney John Fenn Foster of the Foster & Fuchs firm in Jupiter, Florida.  The homeowners association financed the purchase with the welcome assistance of Jeff Campbell at Community Bank & Company, which loaned the association $2,940,00.00 and also helped a number of residents purchase membership shares in the cooperative that will be formed from the homeowners association.   The lender's legal counsel was Ryan Snyder of the Snyder Law Group.

Bill Gorman and his Lifestyle Choice Realty team guided the Sawmill residents through many twists and turns of this very challenging transaction.   The homeowners association was also greatly assisted by its surveyor, Bobby Simmons of Simmons & Beall, Inc.,  Bill Goulet of Environmental Assessments & Consulting, Inc., Sam Surratt from Lee Reed Insurance, and Bryan Tolli from Evergreen Insurance.

I'm happy to welcome Sawmill as a resident owned community and will be looking forward to getting back to regularly posting entries on my blog.  We've got lots to discuss!

 

 

Tropicana Joins the ROC family

I didn't want January to end without welcoming a new resident-owned community into the fold.

Just before 2010 came to a close, Tropicana Mobile Manor in Fort Myers was bought by an association of homeowners formed to purchase the park and convert it to a resident-owned cooperative, Tropicana Co-op, Inc.

Tropicana has 470 total spaces and the purchase price was $33,810,000.  More than 160 residents bought membership shares in the cooperative to help finance the purchase and Bank of America provided the blanket loan.

The closing occurred on December 17 and the residents were guided through the process by Marty Pozgay and his Florida Community Services Group.

Congratulations to the residents of Tropicana.  Welcome to the ROC family and we'll look forward to seeing your board members at future seminars and meetings of the Southwest Florida Resident Owned Communities.

As many of you know, between our seminars at Spring Creek Village in Bonita Springs, Venice Isle Estates in Venice, Skyway Village in Palmetto, my recent presentation for the Mid-Florida ROC meeting at Hawthorne in Leesburg, and attending several annual meetings, January has been incredibly busy and I have been asked many very interesting questions by attendees at these events.  I promise to discuss several of those questions on this blog during the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I want to thank all of the communities that hosted our presentations and also want to thank Skyway Village for inviting me to their open house for their beautifully renovated clubhouse and Windward Isles in Sarasota for allowing me to share in the celebration of their 25th anniversary of becoming a resident-owned community.

2011 is shaping up as a banner year for ROCs in Florida and we're glad that Tropicana has joined us!