Being a condo officer is a tough job, but someone has to do it

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Joe Kollin

Published May 2, 2007


Owners at Pine Ridge at Delray Beach, as at many other condo and homeowner association communities, weren't allowed to put up hurricane shutters until 48 hours before a storm was expected to hit, and had to remove them 48 hours after it passed.

At Pine Ridge, a community of 224 single-family houses, many owners didn't like the rule. It was a chore for residents in the over-55 community to repeatedly put them up and take them down. And many snowbirds wanted to leave their shutters up all summer.

Instead of standing in their way, the board recently changed the rule, allowing shutters to be installed at the start of hurricane season and left in place until the end.

"Sensible and logical," is how the board's treasurer, Kenneth Goldberg, described the change.

Most of the 50,000 or so association boards in Florida are indeed sensible and logical. They comprise owners who step up to the plate to take care of their communities.

Why do they volunteer to go to all that trouble?

"To protect my own investment and keep it on par," said Larry Lemelbaum, 79, vice president of his 109-unit Golden Raintree townhouse association in Coconut Creek. He was president of the community for 12 years and president of the master association, which is responsible for 5,307 units, for 14 years.

"Because I like my building. This is my home and I want it to be the kind of place where I can invite people," said Dr. Daniel J. Mason. The retired physician has been president of the 209-unit Country Club Tower of Coral Springs for 16 years.

"To impact change we decided to become part of the process," said Richard S. Herman, president of the 48-apartment Burgundy A Association in Kings Point, Delray Beach. He and his wife, Judy, ran for the board at the same time three years ago and both got elected. She is treasurer.

It definitely isn't an easy job, directors say:

"I've been threatened [with abuse] when we sent out notices such as to remove a commercial vehicle, remove a boat from the driveway or to power-clean a roof," said Rhonda Montoya Hasan, 42, treasurer of her 20-unit homeowner association in Davie and a prosecutor for the city of Miami Beach.

"You shouldn't have to compel people to do the right thing and maintain their property according to the rules they promised to obey when they bought, but you have to with some individuals," she added.

Said Neal Gary Rosensweig, 50, president of his 12-unit Hollywood condo and also a condo lawyer: "I became the enemy and slanderous things were said about me. It's something you have to deal with. You have to put up with the malcontents, but there is no one else to do it."

As you can see, directors aren't all ogres.


Q. Readers in condo and homeowner associations in Fort Lauderdale, Delray Beach and Lauderdale Lakes ask if directors can accept any kind of payment. Separately, several readers ask if board members and community association managers can take anything of value from those who sell goods or services to the association.

We asked Michael J. Gelfand, chairman of the Palm Beach County Bar Association's Community Association Law Committee.

A. Just like in the "real" corporate world, neither the Florida Condominium Act nor the Homeowners' Act prohibit associations from paying directors, he said. However, another law provides that if a community has 50 units or a budget exceeding $100,000, a paid director must have a state community association manager's license.

Frequently a community's documents limit spending, he said. Some forbid payment while others limit the type of work for which a director can be paid.

"No one answer fits all communities," he said.

On the second question, vendors generally can't provide free goods or services to a condo director or manager unless it is in connection with trade fairs or education programs, he said. No similar restriction exists for homeowner associations, but the Florida Administrative Code does set standards of professionalism that managers must obey, such as requiring honesty in their dealings, he said.

Gelfand said his answers should not be considered legal advice and he suggested readers needing more information contact their attorneys.