Ask An Expert: About Your Condo, HOA Rules

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How can we get a detailed financial report at board meetings?
By: Steven R. Braten Esq. Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers
Q.  The board of directors in my homeowners association (HOA) meets every month and provides a cursory financial report with little detail.  We have requested the treasurer and board provide more information, but the board responds that we can get the detail at the property management office. Does Florida law provide any redress?
E.A.M., Boca Raton
A. Yes, it does. Florida law provides that the association’s financial records are official records and accessible to homeowners or their authorized representatives. Specifically, Florida Statutes section 720.303 requires that the association maintain 1) accurate, itemized and detailed records of all receipts and expenditures; 2) current account and periodic statement of the account for each owner; 3) all tax returns, financial statements and financial reports, and 4) all other records that identify, measure, record or communicate financial information.
So, assuming the HOA is maintaining the appropriate records, the question is whether the board is required to disclose this information in considerable detail during a meeting. The answer to that question is no. The board is required to exercise its fiduciary duty which may dictate that individual board members need to inquire into financial details, but that would not necessarily translate into detailed reports at meetings during the treasurer’s report or at any other time. There is also no legal obligation for the board to provide detailed account statements for owners at meetings.  Because the financial records are official records, you can make a written request to inspect the financial records listed above and the association must make them available to you. If the association posts these records on their website as a courtesy, it is merely a courtesy and not required by Florida Statutes Chapter 720 governing HOAs.
Q.  If an HOA plans on increasing the size of its town hall (whether it be going up or increasing its footprint) will it have to meet all handicap regulations?  The facility is approximately 20 years old and does not presently meet all current regulations regarding the handicapped.
M.D., Pompano Beach
A. You ask a great question.  Unfortunately, this question is too complicated to definitively answer in this newspaper column.  By way of background, in 2010, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) adopted revised accessibility standards called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design that replaced the 1991 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines.  Typically, HOAs believe because they are private residential communities that the ADA does not apply because the common areas are not “public accommodations” under the ADA.  This may or may not be true.  Your association will need to consult with its professionals, including association counsel and engineering professionals to ascertain whether and to what degree a change in the size of your community’s town hall will trigger ADA compliance, and if so, to what degree.  For example, if your common areas are held out for the use of visitors or the common public, the changes your HOA makes to the town hall may have to become ADA compliant under the 2010 ADA standard.  The good news is that DOJ relaxed the trigger compelling ADA compliance of non-compliant facilities.  The 2010 ADA “does not address existing facilities unless altered at the discretion of a covered entity.”  The 2010 ADA defines alteration as “remodeling, renovation, structural changes, wall changes, reconstruction, historic restoration.” Alterations made on or after March 15, 2012 in buildings that were constructed before March 15, 2012 are required to be made compliant to the “maximum extent feasible.” Said determination is solely at the discretion of the DOJ. This is a much more objective trigger that also defines disproportionate accessibility alterations as exceeding 20 percent of the cost to alter a primary function area.  The local building department will weigh on this issue as well, because ultimately the plans and specifications for your HOA’s proposed changes to the community town hall will need to be approved before a permit is issued to commence construction.
Steven R. Braten Esq., is Managing Partner, Palm Beach of the Law Firm Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC, with offices located at the Sanctuary Centre in Boca Raton.  Visit www.GADClaw.com or ask questions about your issues for future columns, send your inquiry to: question@GADClaw.com. The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, or any of our attorneys. Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein. The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.