Richard White: Who is responsible for repairs for a water shutoff valve?

Q. In our condominium building, each unit has a water shutoff valve. Does the condominium have any responsibility for maintenance of the plumbing or damage that occurs from leaks or repairs beyond the shutoff valve?— J.H.

New Port RicheyA. This is a document requirement, most times found in the declaration. I have found that most condominium documents say that when a utility line serves only one unit, the owner of the unit would be responsible for the repairs and maintenance. If the line serves two or more units, then the condominium would be responsible. From your description and if the documents have this requirement, then the shutoff value appears to be that point that divides the responsibility. Now as to responsibility for the damage from a water spill or leak, that is a different set of requirements. Damage to personal property including unit damage is normally a unit owner's responsibility regardless of how or where the water entered the unit. That would cover any penetration of water including rain, wind blown rain, an upstairs pipe that breaks, hot water heaters failure, floods from main common area water lines, or any other source of water. In fact, it is a legal requirement that each condominium owner obtains and carries property insurance for losses in their unit. Here is how most claims for water damage are handled. Each unit owner would be responsible for the repairs to their unit's personal property. There is one exception and that is the condominium may be responsible to replace unfinished drywall. The best source to find the requirements for your condominium is to ask your insurance agent and your attorney.

Q. At a recent annual meeting of our condominium, we elected a past president to the board. After the election, several facts were disclosed about his past actions. The first is that he is a Canadian citizen and only lives here for a few weeks each year. He also have violated our rules by building a patio on common grounds at his unit as well as opening a wall and installing a window without approval by the board. For the election, he assisted some unit owners in filling out their ballots. And this is some of the violations that he has done. One of his campaign promises was to keep the fees the same this year. In lieu of all the violations and improper actions that this man has done, is there anything that we can do about our situation with this person being on the board?— F.E.

ClearwaterA. Here is a quote from the VFW Magazine: "The Supreme Court stated that the First Amendment's free speech protection applies even to lies." The ruling was made to determine if politicians could be held accountable for their campaign promises or any speech given. In your situation, if the members elected the director, good or bad, the members are to be blamed, not the candidate. It is the members' duty to know the details of the person they vote for or to verify the facts. Requirements of the person must be verified by each individual before they vote. Citizenship and residency are not a requirement to serve on a condominium board unless your documents say otherwise. The filling out of a ballot as you described only means that those ballots should be voided. That is not a criminal offense that would involve jail time. If the members were too thoughtless to evaluate each candidate, then they only have themselves to blame. If he is that bad, the other directors can strip him of all officers' duties. He does not need to be president as the directors have the final vote to elect officers.

Q. In our condominium, the stairwells have deteriorated to a point they need to be removed and repaired. They are a hazard and could involve a liability lawsuit if someone falls or trips. Does the board have the power to contract for the repairs and special assess the members? Is it a board decision or do the members need to vote on the repairs and special assessments?— M.A.

SeminoleA. This is straight out of the statutes (FS 718.111 and other sections). The board of directors has the responsibility to operate and maintain the common areas. To do so, they have the duty and right to budget or special assess to raise the necessary money to pay for repairs. The owners have no say-so to disallow such repairs. Yes, if someone is injured because of a fall on your steps needing repairs, they could receive a large award in court. That is one reason that property inspections should be made frequently to discover common areas that need repairs. At the next board meeting, the reports should be discussed and scheduled repairs should be introduced. This is one of the key responsibilities of the board of directors.

Q. Our HOA board has a monthly workshop prior to the monthly owner's meeting. Much is accomplished at these meeting Owners can attend but cannot talk at the meeting but can address their problems or ask questions at the end of the meeting. This system works well but we would like your opinion on the subject. We are told that the board cannot make motions and vote at the workshop. We were told that Florida law requires that all voting must take place at the owner's meeting. Is this true?— M.S.

Vero BeachA. This week I received several question on workshop meetings. Your question, along with all the other questions, indicates that boards do not understand the statute requirements and proper board functions. The HOA Act Section FS 720.303 and the Condominium Act Cection FS 718. 112 say anytime a meeting of directors, where a majority of directors are present and association business is discussed, the meeting is considered to be a board meeting. An agenda and proper notice is posted and the members allowed three minutes to discuss agenda items. That in so many words says that the statutes do not allow workshops. As for the "monthly owner's meeting," I think you mean board meeting. Your directors must read the statutes and determine the proper meeting protocol. Meeting in a workshop is simply illegal. It really indicates that your directors need to start asking questions from professionals that manage and operate associations and legal guidance. One of the best sources of information is the Community Association Institute (CAI). The Web page is www.caionline.org. There are several CAI chapters in Florida. You can search a chapter in your area at www.flcaj.com.

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