Question: We live in a pet-free community. I saw a lady walking a cocker spaniel yesterday on our grounds. I asked our property manager about the pet and was informed this was a new resident that had papers indicating it was a comfort dog.
As owners, do we have the right to see the documentation? Signed F.A.
Answer: You are not entitled to see that documentation. First, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers the Fair Housing Act, has stated that all information collected with respect to a request for an accommodation must be kept confidential. In addition, both the Condo Act and the HOA Act provide that, among the records excluded from the right of inspection are the medical records of owners. Further, both acts exclude any information obtained in connection with the approval of the sale or lease of a lot or unit.
Q: Our condo recently replaced the washers and dryers in the complex. The old machines required the use of tokens. The new machines use quarters. People still have tokens (some have quite a few) that were purchased for $1 each. Some people have asked if the tokens would be bought back by the condo association, and they were told there would be no refunds. This doesn’t seem right, because the association took in the money and it was the board’s decision to replace the machines. Do the people who still have now useless tokens have any recourse? Signed, F.K.
A: I agree it’s a cruddy situation, but I don’t think that your owners have any reasonable legal recourse. It’s not very different than if they had bought tokens for an arcade that later changed its machines, or went out of business. I’m a little surprised that the board is unwilling to help out, but that’s a business decision.
The only avenue I can think of would be to argue that the change of machines from those that take tokens to those that take quarters is a change in the “form, function, use or appearance” of the machines, and therefore constitutes a material alteration that should have been approved by the membership. But, it’s not a strong argument, and the association could just as well argue that the change was required because the old machines needed to be replaced consistent with the association’s maintenance responsibility and new token-based machines were not available. Either way, your best option is to get as many owners as possible to pressure the board politically and see if you can get a satisfactory resolution.
Q: I recently read your column regarding board members being 90-days delinquent. I understand the statute regarding this, but our bylaws state that if a board member is 30-days delinquent they are automatically off the board. In this case, doesn’t the more stringent rule apply and supersede section 720.306(9)? Signed, R.C.
A: I think the statute controls on this issue. The question of whether a statute controls over your governing documents is not a question of whether the governing documents are more restrictive. If the statute governs a procedural issue, the statute can control, regardless of the language in the governing documents, and whether that language predates the statute. If the statute governs a substantive issue, the governing documents would typically control if that language existed prior to the statute. The question of whether an issue is substantive or procedural is blurry, and I am not aware of any case law that directly addresses your question. But, my gut feeling is that this is a procedural issue controlled by the statute, and not a substantive issue that affects lot owners’ rights.
I recently wrote a column about the approval of minutes, pointing out that annual meeting minutes should be approved by the membership at the next membership meeting. A regular reader of the column was nice enough to point out another method of approving the minutes, per Robert’s Rules:
“Your answer on meeting minutes omitted a possibility for approving meeting minutes, especially meetings with a long time period between gatherings. Robert’s Rules of Order has a method for such circumstances. The membership (or board) may appoint (by vote, I presume) an ad hoc committee (probably volunteers) to prepare and approve the minutes, thereby avoiding a 1-year lapse before members can see the minutes, the official record.”
Thank you for pointing out this procedure. I’ve never seen it done before, but it’s good to know it’s a possibility.
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