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Friday, Nov 28, 2014
Lifestyle Stories

Neighbor’s violation may require legal action


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Q: My next door neighbor has changed her door and front window without the approval of the board of directors. The board sent her a letter that she must comply with the bylaws by having such items pre-approved by the board. Her new window changes the appearance of her unit and affects the rest of the building. What action can the board take next as she has so far not complied with the letter?

T.M., Miami

Answer: The board has limited powers to force an owner to comply with the rules. The members cannot go out and hit her with a stick. But they can turn the matter over to an attorney to file a legal action and take her to court. If done correctly, the judge can force her by legal means to correct the violation. The board members have a responsibility to enforce the rules. I recommend sending two or three letters to the owner asking her to correct the violation. If she does not take action to correct the violation, then the board should turn the matter over to the attorney with instructions to take the matter to court.

Q: I have just learned that one of our employees stole several thousand dollars from our HOA by diverting association checks into her personal checking account. The board has terminated the employee but has not informed the membership about the loss. I understand the need for confidentiality of the employee records, but doesn’t the board have a responsibility to inform the members in general terms about a loss of this magnitude?

W.C., Naples

Answer: As with any crime, certain critical information must be withheld during the investigation. However, the board does have some, albeit limited, obligation to inform the members. The question is how long can that information be withheld? The two main factors in this delay would be the police and your insurance.

Of course, the police will want to make sure others are not involved. And the insurance company also may investigate the crime and might ask that the crime be held confidential. As with any question you have about the association operations, write a letter to the board and ask about the missing money. If the board members were asked to keep the crime confidential, they have a duty to advise you that they cannot discuss the matter.

Richard White is a licensed community association manager. He does not offer legal opinions; any other questions and comments concerning association operations can be sent to Richard White, 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., No. 201, Winter Haven FL 33884-4115; or email camquestion@cfl.rr.com.

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