FCAP Community—November 2023

FCAP Community

Published November 2023

     Florida Community Association Professionals’ (FCAP) training is offered on two levels. Level one consists of courses meeting Florida’s continuing education requirements for CAMs, and level two is the Florida Advanced CAM Studies (FACS) course. For further information about the more than 38 online continuing education classes available or to pursue the Certified Florida Community Association Manager (CFCAM) designation, please visit https://www.fcapgroup.com/managers-2/.   

Betsy Barbieux

Because You Asked
By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA


     I am a board member of a small co-op. Our board followed the lease article for a transfer of share/assignment of lease, which was recently interpreted by the association attorney. The CAM privately called the board president to tell him what we did was “illegal.” This set board members in a state of panic before the board had a chance to consult with the association attorney. My question is, is a CAM qualified to tell a board member that something being done is illegal?
– Ted

     CAMs are not to give legal advice. However, most of our training is about the laws, so we often know when a course of action is not permitted in the statutes or documents. I believe it is a CAM’s responsibility to warn board members about an improper course of action, which is usually followed with “check with the attorney.”
     Whether the advice that was given was legal or illegal is probably not the issue. The advice given may have been wrong, but not illegal. It appears the attorney weighed in and confirmed the action of the board. So, no harm done.
– Betsy

     I am a graduate of your CAM school and need some insight. We have been carrying a policy for workers’ compensation since 2020.  My question is, do we need this since we don’t employ anyone? Our president thinks we need this because we hire landscapers and pool people, but I think our liability insurance would cover any injuries. What are your thoughts?
– Pauline

     A non-employee workers’ compensation policy is a good, best business practice. My understanding is it protects volunteers and vendors who may be injured on the property and need medical care.
     Your general liability insurance covers the typical “slip-and-fall” incident and pays for the legal defense and damages resulting from the lawsuit.  Exclusions from association liability coverage usually include the following:

liability assumed under contracts

cars, boats, and aircraft

alcoholic beverages being dispensed

injured employees covered by workers’ compensation

property in the care, custody, or control of the association, and

demolition operations

     The above paragraph is from your pre-licensing manual!
– Betsy

     It’s been a couple of years since I have contacted you. You may remember that I was on the board and resigned because of the drama. Well, now I am back on.
     I’m in the process of getting reacquainted with procedures and filled in with what’s happened since I previously served. A question that I have is about laws on how, when, and where the board can get together to talk.  
     Are we ever allowed to meet just to talk about things as long as we don’t conduct any official business? Or is it considered a board meeting every time we get together? 
     The background is four out of five board members resigned, and we were about to have a receiver appointed when four owners volunteered to be appointed, me being one of them. We decided to get together later to meet each other and decide on the officers. We met at the library, and somehow the troublemaker neighbor who has been relentlessly harassing the board for the last three years found out we were meeting and showed up and demanded that he had the right to be there.  We ignored him and started talking, and he hovered over us the whole time.  Were we wrong? Is there ever a time that we can meet and just talk about things or plan for meetings before we have official board meetings where we make decisions?
– Stephanie

     Well, congratulations! Board members are permitted to talk outside a meeting and use email, text, or telephone, but they may not vote by email.
     With that said, your newly appointed board should have posted its library meeting. Voting on officers should be done at a meeting open to the owners. This meeting requires minutes. You must post the notice and agenda 48 hours in advance. The agenda must specifically state ALL items to be discussed whether decisions or voting will be done. Nothing is official unless it is in the minutes.
     You can talk outside a meeting face to face so long as you are not pre-deciding how you will vote at the meeting. You live together in your community, you go to dinner together, you play golf together, etc., and nothing prohibits you from socializing.
     The goal is that discussions and decisions that are being made about association property and money that affect the association and its owners should be done at a duly posted meeting.
     If the board members gather to look at work done by a vendor and need to have that vendor back to redo the work, I don’t think that is a meeting. However, if you have a pesky owner, that owner will think it is a meeting. Though the statutes are written in black and white, implementation always seems to be gray.
     Unless the board and the owners understand the reason behind “open” meetings, things get blown out of proportion and end up being harassment. Hence, the reason for the CAM Matters™ shows. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel, CAM Matters™.  Many of your procedural questions will be answered in the monthly shows at www.youtube.com/c/cammatters.
     It’s been several years since you were on the board, so you and your new board members will have to certify by attending an approved class or signing a statement of knowledge of the documents and your fiduciary duty.
– Betsy

Marcy L. Kravit

Clear Communication Is Key: 10 Best Practices for Improving Communication in Florida Community Associations

By Marcy Kravit, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, CFCAM, CSM
Director of Community Association Management Hotwire Communications

     Community associations in Florida are designed to foster a sense of camaraderie among residents and provide a safe and comfortable living environment. However, communication breakdowns can occur between management and members, leading to misunderstandings and conflicts. 

     To avoid these issues, community associations must establish and maintain positive lines of communication with their members. In this article we will discuss the best practices for keeping the positive lines of communication open to members in Florida community associations.

     Communication is the backbone of any organization. The administrative assistant is often the first point of contact in the management office, so the assistant’s communication skills need to be outstanding. A positive personality is a valued quality that is sometimes overlooked. Putting the manager’s “best foot forward” with the residents before the manager does is most effective. 

     The administrative assistant is second in command and is typically the one fielding the resident requests. The assistant should always answer the phone and greet visitors with a smile on his/her face. Most of the time, a resident calls or visits the office to address a complaint or to reach out for assistance with a problem. Applying communication techniques for dealing with angry or upset people is critical. 

     The assistant must think on his or her feet, have patience, and have good listening and communication skills. They must also be able to screen calls, handle conflict, and deal with negativity. The assistant must effectively find solutions, establish strong telephone etiquette, and communicate empathetically, courteously, positively, and professionally.

     Keeping people engaged, increasing communication, working to keep the energy flowing, and dealing with resistance from the demanding few can become challenging. Building community and adopting a strategic focus on development and direction takes a large amount of patience and good communication. Members must be willing to cooperate and adapt to change. There needs to be a sense of belonging and identity, a spirit of mutual responsibility, and good communication.

     Any community leader should know that there are certain fundamental skills of hosting great conversations and planning gatherings as well as signing up volunteers to provide refreshments, entertainment, etc. Informal gatherings are a fun way to provide a comfortable setting and improve goodwill and communication. Utilize concierge services and plan an outing, such as a community night at a ballgame. Arrange for a limo to pick everyone up. Plan a children’s party or event. Invite the grandchildren to an over-55 community. 

     Here are 10 best practices in establishing good communication to keep everyone on track:

1.   Establish an Open-Door Policy

     One of the most effective ways to keep the lines of communication open with members is to establish an open-door policy. This means that management is always available to hear members’ concerns and suggestions. Members should be encouraged to approach management with any questions or concerns they may have. This will help to build trust and respect between management and members and ensure that issues are addressed promptly.

2.   Use Multiple Communication Channels

     Community associations should use multiple communication channels to reach out to their members. This includes email, social media, a community channel, community app/software, and newsletters. By using a variety of methods, members are more likely to receive and respond to important updates, requests, and/or announcements. It is also important to ensure that all communication is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

      I suggest alternative methods of communication. In addition to posting meeting notices, suggest that the board or a welcome committee make phone calls and speak directly to new unit owners. In addition to publishing a newsletter, create a website, use questionnaires or surveys, establish email lists, and recruit volunteers to elicit responses from owners. 

3.   Provide Regular Updates

     Regular updates are essential for maintaining positive lines of communication with members. Management should provide updates on important issues, such as changes in rules and regulations, upcoming events, projects, and maintenance schedules. Members should be informed of any developments that may affect their daily lives in the community. Regular updates can also help to prevent misunderstandings and conflicts.

4.   Encourage Feedback

     Community associations should encourage feedback from their members. Members should be given the opportunity to voice their opinions on issues that affect them directly, whether through email, surveys, suggestion boxes, or town hall meetings. Feedback should be taken seriously and addressed promptly. This will show members that their opinions are valued and can help to strengthen the community.

5.   Establish a Code of Conduct & Civility Pledge

     A code of conduct can help to establish clear expectations for the board and members’ behavior within the community. This can include how to conduct themselves in a professional, business-like manner and rules regarding noise levels, parking, and pet ownership. Members should be made aware of the code of conduct and provided with a copy. This will help to prevent conflicts and misunderstandings. The CAI has established a Community Association Civility Pledge: https://www.caionline.org/HomeownerLeaders/CivilityPledge/Documents/CAICivilityPledgeForms.pdf.

6. Train Staff and Volunteers

     It is important to ensure that staff and volunteers are trained in effective communication skills. This includes active listening, conflict resolution, and effective writing and speaking skills. By providing training, management can ensure that staff and volunteers are equipped to handle any communication issues that may arise. They should also keep in mind that although it is important to communicate, they should also be aware of when it is inappropriate to communicate and defer all inquiries to management. Sometimes they may be required to maintain confidentiality. 

7.   Be Transparent

     Transparency is key to maintaining positive lines of communication with members. Management should be open and honest about any issues that may affect the community. This includes financial issues, maintenance schedules, and any legal matters. By the board and manager being transparent, members are more likely to trust management and feel that they are being kept informed. 

8.   Celebrate Accomplishments

     Community associations should celebrate their accomplishments. This can include events such as community clean-up days, charity drives, and social events. Celebrating accomplishments can help to build a sense of community and pride among members. It can also help to foster a positive attitude towards management and communicate goodwill to the community as a whole.

9.    Address Conflict Promptly

     Conflicts will inevitably arise within any community. It is important to address these conflicts promptly and effectively. Management should listen to both parties involved and work towards a resolution that is satisfactory for all. By addressing conflicts promptly, management can prevent them from escalating and damaging the lines of communication between members.

10. Foster a Sense of Community

      Finally, community associations should work to foster a sense of community among their members. This can be done through social events, volunteer opportunities, and community outreach programs. By fostering a sense of community, members are more likely to feel connected and invested in the community. This can help to maintain positive lines of communication between management and members.

Improving Communications Management Checklist

Prepare ongoing general correspondence dealing with routine operational matters between the association and residents, contractors, agents, government officials, or other entities.

Arrange for the mailing or other distribution of notices required by the documents or directed by the association, including all board correspondence of notices, notice of annual meetings, notice of elections, etc. 

Respond to all requests of association and board members in a timely manner.

Communicate and enforce the rules and regulations. Send out friendly reminders. 

Prepare board meeting packages and deliver them two days prior to the meeting to all board members.

Keep the board informed of problem areas and recommendations for actions that needed to be taken. Utilize your management report.

Communicate with unit owners with a complete understanding of handling complaints and concerns. Consult with the board on ways to resolve them. Encourage residents to state their views so that they may have a sense of involvement and feel they have the ability to communicate and provide feedback in the community.

Respond to all members’ needs in a timely manner.

Assist in drafting the newsletter. Your input is vital. 

Advise and consult with the board and its insurance agent in providing the required insurance necessary for the association. The association will retain the responsibility regarding the type and amount of insurance coverage selected. Obtain board approval for updated coverages. 

Receive and report to the insurance agent any known incident which may result in an insurance claim for which the association may have responsibility.

Report to the association any accidents, fires, or other claims related to the management, maintenance, and operation of the association’s property.

Prepare and communicate the  necessary information to assist the insurance carrier in the event of a workers’ compensation audit.

Obtain certificates of insurance for all unit owners and association contractors working in the building.

Conduct in-person orientations for new unit owners. Get to know the new owners and distribute the rules and regulations, architectural guidelines, and FAQ at that time. 

     Positive lines of communication are essential for community associations, especially in Florida. Seasonal residents need to be kept informed. By following these best practices, management can establish and maintain open and effective lines of communication with their members. This will help to prevent conflicts and misunderstandings and ensure that the community remains a safe and comfortable place to live.