Condo Board Service or Amenity?

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S.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am an original owner of a townhouse condo since 1987 in a Florida condominium of more than 100 units. Ever since conception of this condominium in 1987, every unit has had a security system monitored and paid for through our association maintenance fees. This is $16.99 of our $425 monthly maintenance fee. Our security system contract is up in January of 2016. At the October board meeting last year, five of the six directors of our present association board want to vote to stop the bulk package monitoring. The board wants individual owners to pay out of their own pocket maintaining that the board is doing their job in the fact that each unit has security equipment and the association should quit subsidizing owners that use the security monitoring. One of the board members has been negotiating with the company and our association and our association can get anywhere from $12 to $20 per unit for a seven-year contract. The five members of the board that are against this bulk monitoring state they feel it is not right to subsidize the bulk rate since many owners do not use monitoring (almost half do according to the company).

I strongly maintain that the condominium association has been providing monitoring service as a common expense since the inception of the condominium and therefore the board is obligated to maintain and continue to provide the service unless and until a vote of 75% of the membership is secured to terminate or otherwise modify the service from the level originally provided by the association.

I can predict that the board of directors have consulted an attorney; however, I can tell you, according to the board member that sides with me, that the way the board president presented the problem, the attorneys do not know the whole story and the board president is using semantics to push his agenda. I also have a letter from the attorney a past board of directors used in 2006 that also sides with me – that the bulk monitoring security is an amenity and cannot be changed without a 75% vote by all unit owners. What do you think? How can I convince the board at the meeting? I will only have three minutes speaking time at the beginning of the meeting.

Mister Condo replies:

S.J., even if you were to present an impassioned 3 minutes about how the Board should provide this service for the association, I would say it is a foregone conclusion that they will not. Unless your by-laws specifically state that the association is responsible for providing this amenity and that it is part and parcel of your common fees, the Board may very well have discretion at whether or not to continue to provide or let unit owners fend for themselves. You mentioned one half of the unit owners do not use the service. That number alone would indicate that there is a lack of demand from at least half of the unit owners in the association to continue the service. If you are convinced that the bulk monitoring is an amenity and is provided for in your documents, you may wish to pursue a legal remedy (lawsuit) to see if you can persuade the Board to see it your way. I am not an attorney so I only offer friendly advice here. If 5 out of 6 Board members don’t want it, it is likely going away. Of course, you can always replace the Board members during upcoming elections who may reinstate the bulk monitoring as their reason for running for the Board. Either way, the Board is elected by the unit owners and they are the body empowered to make such decisions. Good luck!

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