Article Courtesy of Channel
7 News -- Miami
By Patrick Fraser
Published January 24, 2019
Residents are battling their association for an assessment they don’t want and
some can’t afford — like the government worker furloughed by the partial
shutdown. Can the majority of residents stop their board? There are ways, as we
see in tonight’s Help Me Howard With Patrick Fraser.
When the government started furloughing employees, federal workers like Susan
Graziano feared what she would face without a paycheck.
Susan Graziano: “Paying my mortgage,
paying electric, food for my family. I’m going to have to
call my creditors and tell them, ‘Hey, I don’t have the
But instead of her expenses decreasing, Susan’s are
increasing because of her association.
Susan Graziano: “They are now assessing us $133,000 worth of
Michelle Hull: “People are angry. They’re very upset.”
Upset because to pay for that $133,000 paint job, homeowners
like Susan and Michelle say they were told they have to pay
a special $245-a-month assessment for the next 12 months —
on top of their regular $300-a-month association fee.
Susan Graziano: “And now, with this shutdown and people
not expecting paychecks, it’s not good.”
Homeowners went to the board meeting to try to stop the painting, since it’s
cosmetic and doesn’t have to be done now.
Susan Graziano: “It’s the board members who make the decisions. They’ve shut
us down. They’ve told us they don’t want to hear from us.”
Michelle Hull: “They are nightmares. It’s a nightmare.”
The homeowners then put together a petition signed by more than half the
residents trying to stop the board from nearly doubling their association
fee at this time.
Michelle Hull: “And still didn’t listen, and they still went ahead with the
Susan Graziano: “I have to take care of my family, and I don’t know which
way to turn.”
Some families living paycheck to paycheck — or in Susan’s case, as a federal
employee, no paycheck to no paycheck.
Susan Graziano: “I’m nervous. I’m afraid.”
Michelle Hull: “I want to know if there’s anything we can do to stop it and
maybe revisit it and figure out if the contract is even legitimate.”
Well, Howard, can a majority of homeowners stop a board that’s forcing them
to pay for work the owners don’t feel is necessary?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “A board has enormous power and
doesn’t have to listen to the property owners at all. You can have a
petition signed by every homeowner not on the board, and the board can still
ignore it. And when a board signs a contract against the owner’s wishes,
like a paint job, all of the owners are stuck having to pay for it.”
We contacted the president of the Alpine Woods Association. We asked her
about the special assessment for the paint job that residents said they
could not afford at this time. She said she would rather not talk about it.
She said she did see the petition that majority of the residents signed to
stop the paint job, but didn’t want to talk about that either.
Howard Finkelstein: “A simple majority of the homeowners can quickly demand
a recall election and elect new board members, and a case like this shows
why it’s so important to get on the board, so you have a voice in how your
association is run and what you are forced to pay. And if you don’t want to
be on the board, at least go to the meetings so you can keep an eye on the
people impacting your life.”
Michelle Hull: “I will never buy in an association ever again with the
experience that we’ve had here.”
While Susan waits for the government furlough to end and paychecks to
return, Michelle is plans to make sure she and her neighbors soon have a say
in how their neighborhood is run.
Michelle Hull: “This coming February we are having our elections. I am
running. I’m running for whatever they need me for.”
If we had a nickel for every condo or homeowner board complaint, we could
pay those special assessments. Now, if you think your association is doing
something wrong, spending money where they should not, you have the legal
right to look at the books within 10 days of requesting it. If the board or
the property manager says no, contact an association lawyer to go to them,
because the board will have to pay you damages and your attorney’s legal
Feel like you’ve been painted into a corner? Ready to be furloughed from the
problem? It pays to call us, because we never shut down.