Q: I have a landscaping question for my condominium association. Is a board vote required to trim palm trees? I know this is a maintenance issue, but we voted to trim our palm trees and our secretary is refusing to sign the check to pay the landscaping company to trim our palm trees.
Also, a board member who is not an officer of the board advised the secretary not to sign the check because we didn’t take the vote at a board meeting. We voted by email because the majority of the board members are not permanent residents of Florida.
We’ve had multiple complaints for months from residents about berries and falling palm fronds from 50 feet high, and I’m concerned about the dangers of both. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
– M.E., Stuart
A: Thank you for your question. First, with regard to the Board voting on any matters that require a vote, pursuant to Section 718.112(c)(2), Florida Statutes, members of the Board may use email as a means of communication, but they cannot cast a vote on an association matter via email. Therefore, in order for the Board to vote on any matter, there must be a quorum of the Board at a properly noticed Board meeting (i.e. notice posted either 48 hours or 14 days prior to the meeting, depending on the subject matter being voted on).
Note that pursuant to Section 718.112(b)(5), a Board member’s participation in a meeting by telephone, real-time videoconferencing, or similar real-time electronic or video communication counts toward a quorum, and such member may vote as if physically present. As you stated that your Board voted by email, it appears that they have not satisfied the statutory requirements to properly pass the motion to trim the palm trees.
Second, with regard to whether there is a requirement for the Board to vote on trimming the palm trees, depending on the cost of the project, there may be a requirement pursuant to the terms of your association’s governing documents or Section 718.3026(1), Florida Statutes. For example, your documents may require a vote from the Board for any expenditure over $5,000.00, and if the trimming of the palm trees costs $10,000, then in that case, the Board would need to vote to approve the expenditure.
Finally, the Board has a fiduciary duty to its members and the association as a whole, and if the berries and falling palm fronds do in fact present a danger, then the Board has a duty to protect the members, residents, and guests of the community by trimming the palm trees. We recommend that you contact your association’s attorney or a Florida bar licensed attorney and have them review your association’s governing documents to provide you with specific guidance as to all of the issues outlined above.
Avi S. Tryson, Esq., is Partner of the Law Firm Goede, DeBoest & Cross. To ask Mr. Tryson questions about your issues for future columns, send your inquiry to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, DeBoest & Cross, or any of our attorneys. Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein. The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.