Condominium Associations

New association directors must sign papers or take a course

Season is the time most condominium homeowners’ and cooperative associations have their annual meetings and elect their new directors. The Florida Legislature in the last few years has placed a silly new requirement on new volunteer directors.

Within ninety (90) days of the election upon which a new director must either sign a new director certification or submit to the association a certificate of satisfactory completion of an educational curriculum administered by a division-approved condominium education provider.

We find that most new directors elected to community associations are educated big boys and girls, many of whom are past captains in industry or government and loath the idea of some governmental entity telling them to go take an education course.

To avoid such a hassle to a non-paid community volunteer, most directors will elect to just sign a director’s certification form and give it to the association secretary to keep with the association’s records for five (5) years or the duration of the director’s uninterrupted tenure.

Now, the form’s language states that the new director certifies that he or she has read the Declaration of Condominium or Covenants, Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, and current written rules and polices of the association and that the director will work to uphold such documents and policies to the best of their ability and will faithfully discharge their fiduciary responsibility to the association’s members.

In reality, no director has read all of the provisions of all of these documents, nor has their managers nor their legal counsel. Maybe that is the reason there is no legal penalty for signing the form if someone has not read all these documents.

So, as a matter of course, after new directors are elected by the membership to the board, these directors should just sign the certification form and put it in the association’s files. The provisions relating to these certifications go on to say that: “Failure to have such written certification or educational certificate on file does not affect the validity of any board action.”
The provisions go on to say that: “A director of an association of a residential condominium who fails to timely file the written certification or educational certificate is suspended from service on the board until he or she complies with this sub-subparagraph.”

So, if for some reason an owner with nothing better to do finds out that a new director did not sign a certification form, that dereliction of duty director will be suspended for as many minutes as it take for him to then sign the form. The provisions also say that the board may temporarily fill the vacancy during the period of suspension. In those few minutes it takes for the suspended director to sign a certification form, a board appointed director to fill the temporary vacancy may relish in their short- term appointment of a few minutes.

All of this certification mumbo jumbo resulted of course from a few bad acting directors in very large communities on the east coast of Florida who were abusing their positions. The certification nonsense has no place for the overwhelming well-run boards in Southwest Florida and most of the rest of the state. The bad facts have made for bad law causing a lot of unnecessary paperwork and record keeping for all community associations.

Rob Samouce, a principal attorney in the Naples law firm of Samouce & Gal, P.A., concentrates his practice in the areas of community associations including condominium, cooperative and homeowners’ associations, real estate transactions, closings and related mortgage law, general business law, estate planning, construction defect litigation and general civil litigation. This column is not based on specific legal advice to anyone and is based on principles subject to change from time to time. Those persons interested in specific legal advice on topics discussed in this column should consult competent legal counsel.