More owners in condo and homeowner associations are recalling boards

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Joe Kollin

Published October 3, 2007


Owners in condo and homeowner association communities are doing more than just complaining about their directors.

They are making the effort to dump them.

State laws allow a majority of owners to remove a director or an entire board with or without a reason. When boards won't accept the decision, the state Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums & Mobile Homes arbitrates. It decides only if the vote was legal, not the truthfulness of any allegations.

According to the state's latest figures, 114 recalls were arbitrated during the year ending July 1, compared with 101 the previous year. The state doesn't keep track of undisputed recalls.

Matthew Zifrony, an attorney who has represented many owners seeking to recall their boards, said the move is often a result of frustration, especially "when you have a board in place for a number of years."

"Residents say they need a new set of eyes and ears," he said.

Owners seeking recalls often cite more serious allegations, which they are not required to prove.

In the Ridges, a 1,498-unit homeowner association in Weston, the recall committee accused the board of taking kickbacks, conflict of interest, changing bylaws to favor the board and not holding elections. The board denied all allegations. The state arbitrator Aug. 27 decided the recall vote was legal and ousted the five members. Feelings continue to run hot.

"The old board is instigating and provoking the new board," said Jose Navarro, one of the leaders of the recall movement who is now vice president.

Steve Clein, one of the recalled directors, said, "the people who ran the recall twisted the truth and other people believed what they were saying."

Although unhappy owners can wait for an election to get rid of a director, a recall is often seen as easier. Elections have limits on proxies, while recalls don't. And if directors have staggered terms, they can't be voted out all at once. But they can be ousted as a group in a recall.

Dissatisfied owners recently gave their board the boot at the Lakes of Boca Barwood near Boca Raton. But at Imagination Farms in Davie, a similar recall effort failed.

However, when the directors tried to make the dissatisfied owners pay the board's attorney's fees, the board lost.

"Arbitrators don't want to do anything to punish people for taking advantage of their right to seek a recall," said Zifrony, who has been president of his own homeowner association, Savanna in Weston, for six years. "If they did, boards would be able to wave in front of owners the threat that 'You better be careful, if you lose you'll have to pay our costs.'"

Associations, he noted, can raise whatever money they need by assessing everyone, including those who sought their ouster. Owners, on the other hand, must dig into their own pockets.

"In the past, when real estate taxes weren't so much an issue, people moved around more frequently so the makeup of boards changed," Zifrony said. "Now, people are staying in their houses longer so you don't have that natural transition."

For more on recalls:

Guide to recall procedures for homeowner associations: www.myflorida/com/dbpr/lsc/LSCMHHOAprocedures.html .

Recall arbitration for homeowner associations:

Recall arbitration for condos and co-ops:


Q. Owners of units in townhouse and villa communities don't want to pay twice for a roof. Several report that their individual roofs, which are common property, had to be replaced immediately. Time was crucial because water was entering their homes. Later, the boards decided to replace all roofs and assessed all owners. Those whose roofs were repaired don't want to pay again and want to know if they have any recourse.

A. Lindsay E. Raphael, a Fort Lauderdale attorney, said that generally, "special assessments must be applied equally to all unit owners based on the percentage of ownership as set forth in the condominium documents, unless the condominium documents provide otherwise."

Exceptions may be made, but only if allowed by the documents.