Home Page from 9/16 2014: Updated to To buy or not to buy

Home Page 2014 09 16

Whether a current or prospective owner or interested to learn more regarding how Condo Associations and their boards function, this personal website may be able to provide information  giving insight to the Van Loon Commons board, or the difficulties of ownership due to elected boards. Jim and I contracted for our unit in mid 2005, closed in 2007, and until November 2013, watched the rotating “volunteer managers” from the sidelines.  After being shared ugly rumors spread by our past board president, regarding our property manager (who was terminated by her in Mar 13),  our water billing company (who was terminated by her in Nov 13),  impending increases to 2014 dues and a planned large Special Assessment; we were forced to get involved and seek the truth of our finances.  

The rumors reached the level of ridiculous and were accepted and spread by the inner clique, some we previously considered kind and intelligent persons, without question.  My career has been and continues to be in the field of investigation and seeking the facts and oral testimony began in Nov 2013.  Some mistakes were found to have been made but they were minor in comparison to the vicious gossip and lies stemming from personal vendettas, self-interests and possibly some mental/emotional issues.

Rumors that proved to be true were a Jan 2014 dues increase of nearly $200 per quarter and a Special Assessment  (SA) of $730 per unit by Feb 2014. Subsequent research disclosed that parking lot paving which was included as an SA, for 14.5k was already included in our General Ledger as previously reserved at $22.5k. 

The dues increase was a benefit to the past and current president, whose units are occupied full time and many in the clique; full timers with more than one person in their unit and in some cases, those who spend the Nov-April season with multiple occupants.  By spending thousands to argue an existing Water Amendment, passed in Dec 2010 was Illegal, FREE and UNLIMITED water and sewer (which is half of water usage) was now included in the dues increase of $47 per month.  Owners who use their condo infrequently as we do, for vacation purposes, now subsidize the board members and their families utilities, and are paying for the outrageous legal charges which exceed budget for the year by March.  

Sadly, getting involved and throwing our names in the ring for the election in Jan 2014 has led to defamation of my character, both in writing and through gossip,  As there are many owners whom we have never met, we understand why they would believe some or all from their good friends and hard working board members – to a point. Not everyone takes the time to look behind the curtain of Oz.  Since 2007, Van Loon has been our place to vacation, relax, and make the best of an underwater purchase.   Giving free reign for “inmates to run the asylum” is not going to happen and having paid $192k for our unit, we will not be selling anytime soon.

We will continue to work for improvement of communications (not just posting of meeting notices, information on the building) and finances for VLC.  Anyone who owns or is considering owning a condo in the State of Florida should familiarize themselves with Chapter 718, the governing documents, bylaws, Rules and Regulations and let board members know that open finances are a right, not a gift to be granted.  It is not asking for information that causes legal fees – the information is our right.  The attempt by BOD members to deny owners information, requiring certified letters to request, and paying $350 an hour for to issue denials is what causes legal fees.  It is a bully mentality and has been present for the past 2 years.

I have posted legal invoices through May 2014 with details, that we and others were forced to pay. On Labor Day weekend, we issued a request for the subsequent invoices through date in September we are required to travel to Sentry in Fort Myers to receive, to determine the dollar amount of the waste in the past 4 months.  

As a new association, we are still under development.  I have proposed several times to improve our communication process through an open website, and email process to those who wish to be included.  All owners deserve to be notified of meetings not matter where they are geographically, issues under discussion, contracting, problems. Posting 48 hour notices on the property only, is the minimum requirement included in statutes written long before electronic communications. We don’t need to update Florida statutes for the changes; we can improve this through upgrading of our by-laws. This has been proposed many times to the current board but not added to any agenda. A website owned by VLC would be continuous whereas posting documents to a management company site, is not.  More on this to come. 

The “Water Meter Scandal” as many refer to our ongoing situation of who pays for toilet flushes has brought us to the frontlines though other issues were found after entering. Please review the financial data as posted in the “Surplus or Underwater”…..this analysis was as of 3/31/14. An update for 5/30/14 is also posted which shows less of a deficit as of that date, due to some collections of back owed assessments from foreclosure or estate settled properties.  As the year progresses and new delinquencies occur, the number which is elastic will change.  Having had access to the finances  now denied to me, will require me to travel to the office of Sentry while on vacation instead of having them electronically.  For the May analysis, Ms. Lucia Stiles of Sentry required me to issue a certified letter of request and travel to Sentry. We chose to do so as the reports posted showing “surplus” are not actual cash positions and are misleading.

Most or all of us received in the last week of August, an additional bill for either unbilled water and sewer from 2013, or a back, re-allocation of fixed costs. This would constitute our 2nd SA in 2014, due to the mismanagment in 2013, which is not attributed to the “former property manager” as the mantra has been circulated.  The current BOD refers to it as a “Betterment Fee”. See post on “Fees, Dues, Special Assessments”

 

Whether you bought originally for the higher prices or were fortunate enough to buy at the bargain basement prices from auction, foreclosure or short sale; increases in dues, “Special Assessments” a

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