Imagine sitting down with your significant other to pay the monthly bills. You both put your checks into a joint account and know how much there is to take care of expenses, or so you think. Out of his wallet your husband pulls out receipts for a new suit, dinner with his friends and a new part for the beat up old Chevy he’s rebuilding. You add receipts for a manicure, a brand new red dress that’s hanging in your closet and the liquid lunch that you had with your pals from work. Both of you look at the pile, each upset that the other wasn’t notified about all the extra spending, and wondering how you’re going to cover your household bills now.
Money—and the spending of it—is a topic that some people are very skittish about discussing, but when you’re a board member or the property manager of a residential co-op or condo building however, there’s no benefit to skirting financial realities just because they may be difficult or contentious.
What information the board shares about the building’s financial information depends partly on how it's traditionally been handled in the building or HOA. Finances are one of the biggest components of a community's well-being, so naturally residents want to make sure the board is meeting their financial obligations. “You want to be open to them with annual financial statements,” says one management professional, “and letters that explain when a board decides to increase the maintenance or do an assessment.”
Not only do condo community residents like administrative transparency in their associations, Florida law actually demands it. According to the Florida State Attorney General’s Office website, “Florida began its tradition of openness back in 1909 with the passage of Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes or the 'Public Records Law.' This law provides that any records made or received by any public agency in the course of its official business are available for inspection, unless specifically exempted by the Florida Legislature. Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine Law was enacted in 1967. Today, the 'Sunshine Law' establishes a basic right of access to most meetings of boards, commissions and other governing bodies of state and local governmental agencies or authorities.”
“Under Florida law, community associations have to be open to their owners with regards to the operations of the community,” says Michael Hyman, an attorney and shareholder with the law firm of Siegfried, Rivera, Hyman, Lerner, De La Torre, Mars & Sobel, LLP in Coral Gables. “Every owner has a right to understand how their community government is operating.”