By Laura Manning-Hudson / Published December 2019
Changes and shakeups on community association boards of directors are common in Florida; and since the legislature has imposed term limits for association directors, communities are likely to see an even greater level of transitions to new board members in the years to come.
While it is still common to see the same directors serve year after year on association boards—mainly due to lack of participation—this practice does not present an ideal scenario for change. In a perfect world, board transitions should take place incrementally over time, enabling new board members to get up to speed on all the matters that are currently pending before an association with the help and guidance of experienced incumbent directors.
Wholesale changes to replace entire boards with new directors are never the best approach, yet unfortunately such total transitions do occur from time to time. Whether it is a board recall after a questionable election or a total overhaul election following some tempestuous controversy implicating the prior board, the new norm is for entirely new boards comprised of completely novice board members to take control from one day to the next.
What’s more, these total transitions are typically anything but smooth. Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I have experienced numerous total transitions under antagonistic circumstances, and they have all presented significant challenges.
A recent example involved an association whose directors were all voted out of office due to questions and problems involving a major remodeling and renovation project. Aside from complying with the Florida law mandating that they provide the new board with all the association documents, files, and financial records, the outgoing board members refused to meet with the newly installed directors to provide them with all the myriad details regarding the current state of the renovations and other association matters. The new directors were left to read between the lines of the association records to ascertain the exact state of every matter currently before the board, including the extensive renovations that were only partially complete.
Association boards that undergo major or total transitions to new first-time board members need to take a very proactive approach to get the new directors off to a strong start. If possible, new board members should schedule meetings with the prior board members to review all the issues that are currently before the board. New board members should also carefully review all the association’s records and financial documents and then discuss any questions they may have with the property management and prior board members.
New directors should also schedule meetings with the association’s attorney, insurance broker, banker, accountant, contractors, and all other professionals providing the association with important services and guidance. If the prior board members are unwilling to cooperate with the new directors, these professionals will offer invaluable assistance to enable the new board members to quickly gain an understanding of the current state of all matters pending before the board.
Also, keeping in mind that Florida law requires certification within 90 days after being elected or appointed to a condominium board, the best way to become certified and gain knowledge on how an association operates is by attending a complimentary board member certification seminar such as those offered by our firm on a regular basis.
The transition phase to a new board of directors represents a critical juncture for community associations. By taking a comprehensive approach and meeting with all the individuals who can provide helpful guidance and information, new board members will be able to help ensure that their association does not miss a beat.
Partner, Siegfried Rivera
Partner Laura Manning-Hudson with the South Florida law firm Siegfried Rivera has focused on representing condominium and homeowners associations in matters involving all aspects of community association law since 1998. She is based at the firm’s office in West Palm Beach and is a regular contributor to its community association law blog, www.FloridaHOALawyerBlog.com. The firm represents more than 800 community associations, and it also maintains offices in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
For more information, visit www.SiegfriedRivera.com or call (561) 296-5444.