SHOULD EDUCATION BE REQUIRED FOR ALL BOARD MEMBERS?

A few years ago, the Florida Legislature passed a new law effecting board members of Florida condominium associations only.  The law states:

Within 90 days after being elected or appointed to the board, each newly elected or appointed director shall certify in writing to the secretary of the association that he or she has read the association’s declaration of condominium, articles of incorporation, bylaws, and current written policies; that he or she will work to uphold such documents and policies to the best of his or her ability; and that he or she will faithfully discharge his or her fiduciary responsibility to the association’s members.

In lieu of this written certification, within 90 days after being elected or appointed to the board, the newly elected or appointed director may submit a certificate of having satisfactorily completed the educational curriculum administered by a division-approved condominium education provider within 1 year before or 90 days after the date of election or appointment.

The first method of signing what I call a silly, meaningless, self-serving affidavit that you can obtain from the DBPR’s website, is insulting to those persons who have taken the time out of their lives to take an approved course.  The statute is so flawed, that it allows for self certification without even acknowledging that you have read Florida Statute 718 or even know that it exists.

The other way of fulfilling the requirement of the statute is by attending an educational course approved by the DBPR.  I am proud to say that I was the first attorney in the State of Florida to design a course that allows me to certify people to serve on Florida condominium boards.  It is my honor to teach it and I have now certified over 3,000 participants.  I taught the course this past Thursday at The Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood.  To see what it looked like, click here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/media/set/?set=a.467452716640336.122686.110621888990089&type=1

The course focuses on so many areas including fiduciary duties of board members, budgets, reserve funding, financial reporting, how to conduct board meetings, whether the new laws even apply in your community, rules and regulations, access to records, arbitration, mediation, collections and foreclosures, material alterations, emotional support animals and more.  Needless to say, you don’t learn any of this by signing an affidavit.  Despite the fact that only condominium Board members are required to get certified, so many HOA Board members attend and are eager to learn.  Therefore, the materials we hand-out at the conclusion of the course also details how the HOA statutes treat each topic and when we teach the course outside of South Florida, we also teach the laws that apply to HOAs.

Last year, there was originally legislation pending that would have required board members in HOAs to get certified as well.  That legislation eventually died.  Apparently, The Florida Legislature believes that it’s only important for condominium board members to know condominium law, but it’s not important for directors of homeowner associations to know HOA law.  And if that wasn’t enough of a beat down to HOA owners, The Florida Legislature then took away developer warranties from owners in an HOA, despite the fact that our courts ruled that developers should be held responsible to the home owners when they build communities that crumble.

It’s a no brainer that condominium and HOA education should be mandatory for all Board members.  The owners who the directors serve deserve no less, especially when the education is usually provided for free and only requires attendance for a few hours a year.  Education prevents costly mistakes and creates harmony in the community, even in those communities where the Board members think they know everything just because they’ve been on the Board forever.  Ironically, I often times find that it’s the longest serving Board members who need the education because they are used to doing things “their way” rather than the right or legal way.

Administering the affairs of a condominium association or homeowner’s association is not simple.  Many budgets exceed seven figures.  There is no requirement under the law that any Board member be an attorney, accountant, licensed property manager or have any experience managing a business.  The very least that should be required is a few hours a year of education.  A mandatory requirement would not deter those that are truly interested in serving in the first place.  On the contrary, most people who are willing to serve on the Board want to ensure they are at all times acting within the law.  They are yearning for an educational opportunity. Furthermore, the remaining owners want the peace of mind that their elected directors have at least some knowledge of the law.

Legislation on most matters is often difficult to pass because it requires bi-partisan support and lately our elected officials can’t seem to agree on much.  This issue however is a win-win for all Floridians who live in a community association.  It doesn’t cost the state a dime.  The Legislator who grabs the bull by the horns and lines up in support of mandatory education for Board members of Florida community associations will be looked upon as a hero to the millions of Floridians who live in a community association as will every legislator who supports such a bill.

If anyone is interested in taking our Condo Craze Board Member Certification Course, just visit www.condocrazeandhoas.com to register for either Naples, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando or Hollywood.

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