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Subject: Committee Secrecy
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Author Messages
DavidH44
(Florida)

Posts:7


02/14/2020 1:06 PM  
Florida HOA. Board established a committee to inspect resident exteriors for compliance with HOA rules. Numerous residents have been cited for rules violations, such as dirty sidewalks. There are no published criteria for many of the alleged violations. The Board refuses to publish the names of persons on this committee nor any name listings or property addresses of those who have been sited. These actions appear to be violations of state sunshine laws and Florida HOA laws. Unfortunately, I can't locate evidence which would help me address these problems. Does anyone have suggestions?
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:9136


02/14/2020 2:29 PM  
So if you know this information what will you do? Go to their homes? There is a reason why they are not giving out names. It's a privacy issue. Plus it can cause vigilantism. Don't think I'd feel safe someone angry I wrote up their house for a violation comes to my door. Especially if it was a GROUP decision...

Former HOA President
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:3685


02/14/2020 2:37 PM  
HOAs are not subject to Florida's Sunshine Laws. Instead, the HOA statute, FS 720, has many provisions that have the same effect on the association as the Sunshine Laws have on state's government.

I believe you have the right to know the names of everyone on every committee. I also believe you have the right to see their reports to the board including the identification of properties deemed to be in violation of the covenants and rules of the association. There are a limited number of exceptions to what things the association's board can refuse to share with the homeowners.

The list of the HOAs Official Records includes, at the end, "All other written records of the association not specifically included in the foregoing which are related to the operation of the association."

You can find the whole list in FS 720.303(4). There's also a list of things an HOA can't share with the owners in FS 720.303(5)(c). Committee rosters and reports aren't on the list of exceptions and therefore cannot be kept secret from the owners. Neither can the list of parcels/units/homes that are thought to be in violation of anything.

I think establishing written requirements and standards for various things is important. You can't cite someone for a yard that "looks bad," but you can cite someone for a yard that "violates section 2.4 of the published XYZ HOA Landscape Standards".
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:3685


02/14/2020 2:38 PM  
P.S. In Florida, there's no such thing as hiding information because it's a "privacy issue". Welcome to HOATalk, David. Be careful who you listen to here because some people are really out to lunch.
AugustinD


Posts:2948


02/14/2020 4:45 PM  
Posted By DavidH44 on 02/14/2020 1:06 PM
Numerous residents have been cited for rules violations, such as dirty sidewalks. There are no published criteria for many of the alleged violations.
Is the HOA imposing fines for these alleged violations? If you are certain the covenants and rules provide no basis for the alleged violations, then I suggest each member accused of a violation write a letter to the board stating something like the following:
________

Dear Board,

I received the attached notice of violation on _____. Would you please be so kind to cite exactly which HOA rule or HOA covenant I violated? My understanding is that a HOA cannot make up rules without a basis in the covenants. Please provide a response by March 14, 2020.

Thank you,

John Doe
[address]
HOA member
__________

Down the road as needed, the HOA members wrongly accused may apply for arbitration by the Florida Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes in the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. See Florida Statute 720.311 . http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0720/0720.html

Regarding records, I concur with what Geno wrote.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:2338


02/14/2020 4:47 PM  
My understand of FS 720, is that almost everything can be discussed in open Board meetings,

There are a couple of exceptions - personnel and some legal issues.

Owed assessments, fines owed, violations of CCRs, ongoing legal actions against those in arrears, etc ... names and addresses we treat as all open.
DavidH44
(Florida)

Posts:7


02/15/2020 9:04 AM  
This is not about vigilantism. It's all about arbitrary actions. For example, I have learned that various people have been cited for dirty sidewalks. Unfortunately, there are uncited properties with sidewalks the are far more dirty than those which have been targeted. This is about fairness and equal application of the rules. To answer your question - No, I have no intention of going to peoples' homes. I will address the matter in a Board meeting with the President and committee chair. If the arbitrary nature of these rulings cannot be resolved, I will file complaint(s) with the appropriate state agency. Your "GROUP decision idea holds no weight when there are extreme violators who have not been cited.
DavidH44
(Florida)

Posts:7


02/15/2020 9:07 AM  
This is very helpful. Thanks.

DavidH44
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:9136


02/15/2020 9:09 AM  
And you know they have not been sited how?

Former HOA President
DavidH44
(Florida)

Posts:7


02/15/2020 9:09 AM  
GenoS:

Thank you. This is most helpful.

DavidH44
DavidH44
(Florida)

Posts:7


02/15/2020 9:22 AM  
MelissaP1:

You're missing the point. This is about rules and standards which are clear and enforceable. You cannot cite people over an opinion. You can cite them for non-compliance with a defined rule or standard. If this board is going to issue infraction notices there had better be a clear standard with which the standard was made. Your tone and demeanor imply that you are a person who has experienced some sort of intimidation. Perhaps you're one of the people who has issued decrees based on personal opinion rather than stated rules.

DavidH44
Former HOA President
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:9136


02/15/2020 9:28 AM  
Your attitude reflects someone that the HOA issued an infraction against.. The HOA never has the right "standard" whenever someone gets fined for "opinion". I hear it all the time... Get on the committee that makes such "judgements" or fix the infraction. Simple as that.

Former HOA President
DavidH44
(Florida)

Posts:7


02/15/2020 9:47 AM  
I've been a board president and have served on numerous committees. In my experience tenure we never took action without justification based on facts or defined rules, not opinions. You sound just like persons who are always right. It's your way or the highway. No wonder you fear vigilantism.

DaveH44
Former HOA President
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:3685


02/15/2020 10:35 AM  
Posted By DavidH44 on 02/15/2020 9:04 AM
If the arbitrary nature of these rulings cannot be resolved, I will file complaint(s) with the appropriate state agency. Your "GROUP decision idea holds no weight when there are extreme violators who have not been cited.

David, I wish you success in your efforts. The rules should apply to everyone equally and it's wrong to single out some violators for enforcement while giving special treatment to others.

Please be aware that in Florida, there is no state agency, appropriate or otherwise, that will get involved when a board, or a committee, or an individual violates the Florida statutes, or even a community's own governing documents. This is despite the HOA statute itself that says at FS 720.305.

"Each member and the member’s tenants, guests, and invitees, and each association, are governed by, and must comply with, this chapter, the governing documents of the community, and the rules of the association.

Actions at law or in equity, or both, to redress alleged failure or refusal to comply with these provisions may be brought by the association or by any member against:
(a) The association;
(b) A member;
(c) Any director or officer of an association who willfully and knowingly fails to comply with these provisions; and
(d) Any tenants, guests, or invitees occupying a parcel or using the common areas.

The prevailing party in any such litigation is entitled to recover reasonable attorney fees and costs."

In other words, you have to sue, using your own money up front, to obtain any relief or enforcement. You may have heard that the biggest problem with the HOA law in Florida is that it has no "teeth". Well, there you go.

It's far, far easier (which doesn't mean it's "easy") to find like-minded owners who agree with you, and convince the community to vote the bums out and get yourselves on the board where you can effect some real change.
AugustinD


Posts:2948


02/15/2020 10:48 AM  
Posted By GenoS on 02/15/2020 10:35 AM
Please be aware that in Florida, there is no state agency, appropriate or otherwise, that will get involved when a board, or a committee, or an individual violates the Florida statutes, or even a community's own governing documents.
Geno appears to be partly correct that, and my own post was wrong, regarding the Florida Division of yada yada arbitrating HOA disputes of the nature described in this thread. The Florida Division yada yada is required to arbitrate election disputes and recall disputes. But for the complaint described by OP, it appears the only relevant requirement is that a demand for pe-suit mediation, prior to a filing in court, must be made.

See 720.311 at http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0720/0720.html
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:9323


02/15/2020 11:00 AM  
Our Attorney advised us that the BOD also be the ARB. When a violation is noticed or reported, at least two members of the BOD will review and discuss with the BOD. If we believe a violation exists our MC writes the violation letter. If an ARB request, the entire BOD will review and the MC will send a letter detailing what is to be done.

We are patio homes and the HOA does all outside maintenance, including landscaping. We strive for and maintain a common appearance and we have had very little pushback. Each home has a 6ft privacy (shadowbox) around their backyard/garden. The HOA does not maintain this area (20x30ft) so an owner can pretty well do what they wish back there. We range from area covered with pavers to small vegetable gardens. As long as no one exceeds the height of the fence (umbrellas and trees the exceptions) we do much care what one does in the area.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:2338


02/15/2020 11:26 AM  
Couple of points:

1. This board is a reflection of a business - HOAs, POAs, COAs - just keeping it business oriented will be helpful. While we may disagree on perspectives, being civil and kind is important. I can get uncivil, like the next person - but, I try and not respond - especially, sometimes considering the various sources. It's like being in an office with folks you don't like. You look for common ground, and try and get along/

2. HOAs have a bit of leeway with judgment on look and feel perspectives - for instance "... in a state of good repair and neatness ..." While this sort of statement is a bit arbitrary non the surface - and, by simply analyzing the words - it is the starting point for enforcement of a standard. Once everyone on the Board or ACB, etc, agrees on what this means (it could be written, or simply agreed to) the standard MUST be applied fairly, evenly, neutrally, etc. Dirty sidewalks are pretty easy - if you get a notice about your sidewalk, clean it. If your neighbor doesn't, ask them about it - perhaps they didn't get cited, because an inspector didn't think theirs was a dirty as yours - a judgment call perhaps, not a law suit. Go to the Board meeting and ask how the process works and who is on the committee - if they refuse to say, then note they are in violation of FS 718/720 and that you and other neighbors will be corresponding formally to address this violation of FS 718/720. If they get hard headed, work with your neighbors for a Special Meeting to recall the board members. If you and others don't want to be Board members, or committee members that are processing violations, then you may have a problem.

3. Secrecy breeds suspicion. No committee should meet in secret. FS720.303(2) ... "(2) BOARD MEETINGS.— (a) Members of the board of administration may use e-mail as a means of communication but may not cast a vote on an association matter via e-mail. A meeting of the board of directors of an association occurs whenever a quorum of the board gathers to conduct association business. Meetings of the board must be open to all members, except for meetings between the board and its attorney with respect to proposed or pending litigation where the contents of the discussion would otherwise be governed by the attorney-client privilege. A meeting of the board must be held at a location that is accessible to a physically handicapped person if requested by a physically handicapped person who has a right to attend the meeting. The provisions of this subsection shall also apply to the meetings of any committee or other similar body when a final decision will be made regarding the expenditure of association funds and to meetings of any body vested with the power to approve or disapprove architectural decisions with respect to a specific parcel of residential property owned by a member of the community." The key on the committee meetings is that the ones that make decision on property, conduct of members, major expenditures - should be noticed, like Board meetings. Social committee, welcome committee - meh, maybe not.
DavidH44
(Florida)

Posts:7


02/15/2020 11:31 AM  
You have been very helpful. Thank you.

DavidH44
Former HOA President
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