The transparency revolution started by owners of community associations has finally made its way to a unanimous Florida Legislature. The Florida Senate just voted 37-0 in favor of a bill that imposes criminal penalties on condominium board member violations such as electoral fraud, theft of funds, conflicts of interests and failure to provide access to condominium Official Records. This is just the start in Florida condominiums with 150 or more units. The next requirements will be in HOAs and other community associations of all shapes and sizes, not just in Florida but throughout the country. Illinois is another state where unit owner groups have organized and have made their voices hear in the State Legislatures. Like Florida, Illinois is about to pass their own law change to the Illinois Condominium Property Act and Common Interest Association Act, to require more transparency in favor of owners and teeth in the law against board violators.
There have been continuous reports of fraud and other abuses in community associations all over the United States where unit owners complain that their boards run “mini dictatorships” or “totalitarian regimes” according to Florida Senator René Garca Owners, who co-sponsored the Florida law change. Owners complain that they own a part of the association but the board do not give them access to their own association’s Official Records. These breeds fraud, theft and other crimes.
Illinois unit owner Sara Benson, managing broker of Benson Stanley Realty and president of Association Evaluation, LLC, a Chicago-based real estate data analysis firm exclaims that “For decades, condominium owners have experienced more abuse of power, selective enforcement of rules and regulations, discrimination, and rampant breaches of fiduciary duties in association-governed communities than anyone could ever imagine.”
In Florida, condominium’s with 150 or more units will have to make a laundry list of Official Records and notices available through the internet for owners to log in and access. These Official Records are not static documents, but change like “any document to be considered and voted on by the owners during the meeting or any document listed on the agenda” and “any contract or document regarding a conflict of interest or possible conflict of interest.”
Florida condo boards are going to have to start managing to this requirement and exposing only those Official Records that the statute mandates that owners can access. Indeed, the Florida law makes withholding condo information a felony if it’s proven that the documents were denied in order to commit or cover up a crime.
In Illinois the revamped law requires boards to make up to ten years of association books and records – including the declaration, bylaws, plats of survey, board meeting minutes, rules and regulations, articles of incorporation and insurance policies available for examination by owners within ten days of a request, up from the current period of 30 days. That’s a tight deadline which can’t possible be met unless the board is actively managing its Official Records or overseeing management to make sure management is capable of satisfying the new legal requirement.
Office of the Board sets up instantly and allows Board Members or their management to easily manage the condominium’s Official Records and comply with the transparency requirements of the new laws. Simply create an Office of the Board and your Board will immediately be ready to comply with the new laws. Owners will be satisfied because they will be able to access the required Official Records that they are legally entitled to access, while those same Official Records remain secure and protected inside the Office of the Board.