Q: An issue has come up in my condominium association regarding the creation of the budget for the 2024 fiscal year. The board has discussed having a board workshop to develop the budget. However, it is not clear that the board intends to allow owners to attend the workshop. The board has stated this will not be a meeting and the board will not be adopting the budget at this workshop but rather working on what the proposed budget would look like before it is sent out to the owners in advance of the budget meeting. Many owners feel that this workshop should be open, and owners should be allowed to attend and participate. What are your thoughts? (N.R., via e-mail)
A: The simple and clear answer under the law is that this “workshop” gathering is a meeting of the board, which notice of same needs to be posted 48 hours in advance, and that unit owners have the right to attend and speak to the intended subject. The board can (and should) adopt protocols and procedures for owner statements at meetings, to maintain decorum and time efficiency.
No matter what the event is called, when a quorum of the board is together (in person or by remote means) conducting association business that gathering is a board meeting and the requirements for the board meeting must be met. A vote does not need to be taken for association business to be conducted.
In fact, the Florida Condominium Act even applies these “sunshine rules” to certain committees with the same force and effect as applicable to the board. Committees which make recommendations to the board regarding the association’s annual budget must also post notice of their meetings 48 hours in advance, permit owners to attend, and permit the owners to speak.
Q: If candidate information sheets are not submitted prior to 35 days and not sent with ballots, but the candidate later sends out their own information sheet, does this violate the law and invalidate the election? (J.T., via e-mail)
A: No. Pursuant to Section 718.112(2)(d)4 of the Florida Condominium Act, if an eligible candidate turns in their candidate information sheet no less than 35 days prior to the date of the election, the association is obligated to include their information sheet with the second notice of annual meeting where the election is to be held. However, if the candidate is untimely in returning their information sheet to the association, the association has no obligation to send it out.
The failure to send out a timely submitted information sheet with the second notice of the meeting subjects the election to challenge and will usually invalidate the election. If a candidate wishes to directly send out their information sheet, or any other “political” content, they are free to do so at their own expense.
Q: Our condominium documents say they can be amended by a two-thirds vote of those “present” at the meeting. Can you explain what that means since very few people actually attend our meetings. I am new to the board and have some suggestions for things to change, but I would like to understand how this works. (T.B., via e-mail)
A: You need to look at the actual document in question and what it says about amendment. The condominium documents, in general, consist of a declaration of condominium, articles of incorporation, and bylaws.
Some documents are very clear on how votes are counted, some not so much. Generally, a reference to those “present” mean those who actually vote on the amendment (for or against) rather than calculating the required vote based on the entirety of the membership interests.
The reference to being “present” includes those who actually attend the meeting to vote, those who have voted in advance by a state-required limited proxy form (which is essentially an absentee ballot) and those who have voted online in instances where an association permits “electronic voting.”