Q: I recently wrote a letter to the board of directors of my condominium association complaining about constant noise from my neighbor. I then learned that my neighbor was given a copy of the letter. Isn’t this supposed to be confidential? I do not really know him that well and do not want to be dragged into the middle of this. I feel like the association violated my privacy rights by showing my neighbor the letter. (W.L., via e-mail)
A: The Florida Condominium Act generally provides that all written records of the association are open to the inspection and copying by the unit owners, unless specifically exempted in the statute. Therefore, essentially any written document related to the association is an “official record” of the association. Your letter to the board concerning your neighbor is an official record of the association.
There are exceptions to a unit owner’s right to inspect and copy certain records. For example, attorney-client privileged information, owner health records maintained by the association, and certain personal identifying information of unit owners (such as driver’s license and credit card numbers) cannot be made available for inspection. Your complaint letter does not fall into any of the recognized exceptions. In other words, owners have no expectation of privacy when they make a written complaint against another condominium resident.
Although the board or manager may or may not have overstepped their bounds in giving your neighbor the letter if he had not asked for it, your neighbor would be legally entitled to a copy of the letter if he requested it in writing, so there was no legal wrongdoing by the association. In my opinion, behavioral complaints which a condominium resident wishes to make with the expectation that the association do something about it should be in writing. In addition, although it is undoubtedly uncomfortable in some cases, when an owner wants to involve the association, I believe they need to be willing to “put their name behind their complaint.”
Q: The board of directors of our condominium association is supposed to follow Robert’s Rules of Order according to our bylaws. When they open the floor up to owner comments, there are things some the owners would like to have addressed by the board, so we make a motion to take up the issue. The board says that we are out of bounds and will not do anything. Who is right? (J.P., via e-mail)
A: The board. Regardless of whether Robert’s Rules applies to your board meetings or not (and it does not, unless incorporated into the bylaws), owners do not have the right to make motions, points of order, or otherwise participate in meetings of the board. Only members of the assembled body, here the board, have those rights.
Owners do have the right to comment on designated agenda items. Therefore, if the board is considering whether it is time to paint the buildings, you have the right to express your opinion on the issue, subject to the board’s right to adopt reasonable rules governing owner statements at board meetings. The right to speak is limited to designated agenda items. Therefore, if an item is not designated on the agenda, there is no right to speak to the board about it during board meetings, although some associations do set aside time for general owner comments.
In fact, the board itself cannot take up items at a board meeting unless they are on the posted agenda, except in certain emergency circumstances. If there is an issue that you feel the board should consider, there is a provision in the statute that allows 20 percent of the owners to petition the board to consider a particular item at a regular or special meeting.
Joe Adams is an attorney with Becker & Poliakoff, P.A., Fort Myers. Send questions to Joe Adams by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Past editions may be viewed at floridacondohoalawblog.com.