Q. After the agenda for the annual membership meeting has been posted, is it possible to add to the agenda once the meeting is called to order? Robert's Rules stipulated that the posted agenda is the official agenda and prior to said adoption of the agenda; any member can move to amend the agenda. Could you address this situation?— C.C.
ClearwaterA. Under certain emergency situations the agenda can be modified. I would not recommend it for a normal course of business. An owner cannot just stand and make a motion that is not an agenda item. Motions need study and time to evaluate results or operations. Motions also need to have specific financial impact studies. In other words, where will the funds come from to implement the non-agenda motion? The agenda is posted to allow all members to know what will be discussed and voted. This official notice will allow members who have concerns to attend the meeting to voice their opinions and cast their vote. If a motion or a change to the agenda, is approved that impacts an owner that owner has a legal right to challenge the non-agenda item that was approved. There is no real excuse to allow a non-agenda item to come to the floor of the meeting except an emergency item. It is an indication of bad business operations. If an owner has a subject that he feels needs to be considered, then he should present a letter with the information well in advance of the notices of the meeting being posted or mailed. Good meetings are a result of planning.
Q. I recently purchased a home as a winter home. The HOA is still in the hands of the developer, but within a couple of months he will turn over the association to the members. As we set up our new bylaws and pattern of management, I would like to think we can design them to be all inclusive versus a firm set of rules where the board nit-picks any tiny violation. It would be helpful to me to find a source of complaints other associations have to help us get in front of these complaints.— N.B.
TampaA. I assume that you are referring to the documents. The documents include several parts: Covenants for HOA or Declaration for Condominiums, the Articles of Incorporation, and the Bylaws. Your documents may include other sections of which you may find rules and regulations and maybe contracts and budgets along with other supporting material. The developer should have officially recorded these documents thus making them official. Since sections of the documents are recorded in the county and state records, you already have the requirements of operations and rules and regulations that you must refer. You should have received a set of the documents at closing as part of your paperwork. You do not start over with new "bylaws" as you should have received them as part of the acceptance of your deed — the title. The fact is that if you modify your existing documents that the developer has already established, you could be facing a large legal cost to properly prepare, record, and circulate a set to each owner which will be in the thousands of dollars for legal and other costs. In other words, you do not need to do the work as it has been already established. The function of the new board made up of the members is to establish board operating policies. These are simple documents that spell out how the new board will function. Some of these policies would concern the subjects of collections, architectural modifications, meeting policies, rule enforcements, and other areas of operations. Policies are not written in stone and do not need to be recorded. They can be modified by the board at any board meeting. I would suggest that you seek additional information from your attorney about how to operate within your current documents.
Q. When is an attorney correct or not? Our association has a strong collection policy for late payers. The documents state that any owner paying after 15 days can be assessed a late fee of $10. This has resulted in some late payers ignoring the late fee. Over the months, this has increased to several dollars. We were operating under the assumption that a late fee can be charged each month. We have a letter from our attorney that we can only charge once for a late fee. Can you advise us on these delinquent accounts and the collection of the late fees?— P.K.
SeminoleA. Late fees and interest is always a subject with no straight answer if the owner does not pay the late fees but pays only their fees. I have a possible solution. Create a collection's policy. Work with your attorney to draft a policy. Keep the members aware of the process and work. Once the policy is voted by the board, send a copy to each member. That policy would include how late fees will be collected. Maybe the first dollars received will pay the late fees and the remaining dollars will be applied to the maintenance fees. This will result in a shortage each month and letter should be sent to the delinquent owner explaining the reason for the shortage. Keep a tight control of delinquent payers. This should result in fast action to lien delinquent homeowners and begin foreclosure action. You will need an attorney to help do the heavy lifting. Most of the legal costs will be added to the delinquent accounts. In brief, you want to take fast legal action rather than trying to use late fees alone. Also, keep your members aware of the collection's policy and the action you take. Caution: When communicating about delinquent action with members, do not use names of the delinquent owners. Just refer to action taken on late or delinquent numbers.