An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.

Published December 23, 2010


COMMENT TO "Florida limits condo owner rights to speak"


Let's just face it: Nothing in the statutes prohibits owners to ask questions and/or boards to answer questions. Nothing in the law requires board members or owners to stick to agenda items regarding questions from owners at board meetings. Neither the provisions in FS 718 (Condominium) nor in FS 720 (Homeowners' Associations) disallow any questions being asked by owners to be answered by the board. The provisions address the minimum "RIGHTS" granted to owners in regard to speaking at board meeting -- nothing else. 


The same goes for tape recording and videotaping of board meetings [FS718.112(2)(c) and FS720.306(10)]. The provisions explain the minimum rights owners have.


It is clearly up to the board and its members to allow questions -- outside the agenda -- to be asked and answered. The wording in the statutes regarding these issues clearly leaves it to the board to answer questions from the audience. 


We hear always complaints from board members that the owners are not interested and don't attend the board meetings. In all honesty, would you like to waste your time with attending a board meeting where you are told to sit down, shut up and listen to the board's discussion and decisions -- often already prearranged by computer?


The wording of the provisions, pushed by the lawyer lobbying groups, is nothing but a defense for bad boards -- boards that have something to hide.


The interpretation of the law in this article is exactly what attorneys looking for billing hours want everybody to believe. But this is not what the law really says: There is nothing in the law that disallows boards to answer these questions -- if they just want to! It is up to the board -- and especially the president -- in this case hiding behind the attorney -- to answer anything they want. 
Many good boards do answer questions in a specific Q&A section of the meeting. Many bad boards hide behind their well-paid attorneys -- like in this case.

This is exactly the reason why the community association system fails the owners. 

This interpretation of the statutes is another example why I often say that these big law firms are the legal version of a protection racket. For sufficient pay they protect board members against the "BAD" guys - the owners who want to know what happens in their associations!

Read the law -- nothing that says that board members are "PROHIBITED" to answer questions from their fellow owners.

But if board members have things to hide, they can use this law to prevent having to answer unwanted questions and hide behind the association attorney -- you know the one who is paid with the money from the folks who are asking legitimate questions?


There is only one good way for owners to deal with board members with an "attitude": Beat them at the next election or recall them real fast, before your money buys the association attorney a new Mercedes. Board members who can't even answer simple questions -- in this case the answer would have taken less time than the refusal -- have something to hide and are clearly wasting everybody's time and money.


FS 718.112(2)(c)  Board of administration meetings.--Meetings of the board of administration at which a quorum of the members is present shall be open to all unit owners. Any unit owner may tape record or videotape meetings of the board of administration. The right to attend such meetings includes the right to speak at such meetings with reference to all designated agenda items. The division shall adopt reasonable rules governing the tape recording and videotaping of the meeting. The association may adopt written reasonable rules governing the frequency, duration, and manner of unit owner statements.



FS 720.303(2)(b)  Members have the right to attend all meetings of the board and to speak on any matter placed on the agenda by petition of the voting interests for at least 3 minutes. The association may adopt written reasonable rules expanding the right of members to speak and governing the frequency, duration, and other manner of member statements, which rules must be consistent with this paragraph and may include a sign-up sheet for members wishing to speak.


FS 720.306(10)  RECORDING.--Any parcel owner may tape record or videotape meetings of the board of directors and meetings of the members. The board of directors of the association may adopt reasonable rules governing the taping of meetings of the board and the membership.