By Avi S. Tryson
Q. The incoming Board members are concerned that the budget for the upcoming fiscal year that was approved by the outgoing Board members is not adequate to cover needed areas (i.e. legal fees for review and revision of rules) plus underfunding a number of line items in the operating budget. Is it possible for the new Board to amend the budget or do we just have to live with it as it stands?
– I.H., Vero Beach, FL
A. An association (whether a condominium association or homeowners’ association) in Florida is permitted to amend its budget at any time. In order to do so, the Board will need to follow the same procedures as it did in passing the original budget. For a condominium, that includes providing notice of a Board meeting (which notice must be at least 14 days prior to the date of the meeting) which specifically states that an amended budget will be considered on the agenda, and a copy of the proposed amended budget must be sent to all owners.
Q. Our Board President does not allow any owner to speak at all until after all votes are taken and board business is concluded. This renders any input homeowners have moot as the agenda items are already voted on and over. Additionally, there are no written rules adopted by the board governing homeowners’ right to speak. Are the President’s actions to prevent owners from speaking prior to the conclusion of all board business contrary to the Florida Statute that covers the right of owners to speak at open board meetings?
– S.W., Miami, FL
A. The statutes governing both condominium associations and homeowners’ associations provide, along with the right to attend all Board meetings, that all owners have the right to speak at such Board meetings. For a condominium association, Section 718.112(2)(c) Fla. Stat. provides, “The right to attend such meetings includes the right to speak at such meetings with reference to all designated agenda items.” For a homeowners’ association, Section 720.303(2)(b) Fla. Stat. provides, “The right to attend such meetings includes the right to speak at such meetings with reference to all designated items.” Under both statutes, the association may adopt written reasonable rules governing the frequency, duration, and manner of owner statements. Neither statute explicitly states when the owners’ right to speak must be provided by the Board, in particular whether the owners have a right to speak before the Board votes on a particular subject. However, the whole point of allowing owners to speak at meetings is so that the Board can be fully informed on a certain topic and how it affects the owners in the community. The Board must exercise business judgment in its decision-making on behalf of the community, and part of that is obtaining all of the information it reasonably can before making such decisions. Only allowing the owners to voice their opinions about a particular topic after the topic has already been voted on by the Board circumvents the intent of the statutes. Therefore, in our opinion allowing the owners to speak only after a vote has already been taken runs contrary to the intent of the statute and does not satisfy the requirement of providing owners an opportunity to speak at the meeting.