Home Page: 09 16 2014
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” and uncontrolled, unplanned spending by board members, creates deficits and debt which destroys the value of our investments; not owners who trying to stop the madness.
Jim and I keep very busy, are not professional website users, have never blogged before, nor had a reason to. We’d prefer not to now and if typos are present, you are free to be the proofreader. Our time is precious, I continue to work full time and have many family interests. The baby pictured below is the latest gift to our large family: Grandson Brody Michael, born June 3rd. I would prefer to spend more time with family; the new baby, 8 month old “TEZ 3”, our 7 kids, their spouses, fiance’, dogs, cats, volunteer work with veterans, swimming, medical issues, etc. There are many issues to address including the “Back Room” discussions and emails, and qualifications of the current board. We sincerely hope owners with backgrounds in accounting, finance, real estate, contract management, who understand that a Board of Directors is a team of decision makers, not trash room cleaners will step up and serve to restore some fiscal responsibility. Suggestions for owners with those qualifications are welcome.
Jim and I do NOT want moreSpecial Assessment though it appears unavoidable based on our current status. Prior to my access to our mixed books ( Cash and Accrual Basis in same report – budgeted revenues minus some actual/some adjusted expenses) being deleted, we were under budget for building maintenance and cleaning line items. Is this a good thing. We do NOT want to pay for your toilet flushes nor have you pay ours.
VLC should have a real website to post all meeting notices, board topics of interest, communications and video of all board meetings and solicit comments, suggestions, questions. It should also use a stand alone bookkeeping such as QuickBooks from which reports could be produced and posted monthly and changing of property managers would not be problematic. Bank accounts and books would remain constant.
I suggested in April, the establishment of a Finance Committee, including degreed or experienced owners with backgrounds as CPAs, accountants, or real estate. Instead, we got a “Social Committee” , Paving and Water committees. There may be Fines Committees also but I was cut from the loop within one month of the election in Jan 14. Priorities need to be ordered and owners who understand finances are desperately needed. The budget must be passed in Nov 14, and the current position is clearly not understood by the board who is relying on the CAM.
(Requirements to achieve a CAM license are minimal: state website about an 18 hour class and 100 question multiple choice test, and be over 18-not a finance background)
We hope that for 2015, a board will be elected with directors who understand and respect the state statutes, laws, governing documents and support with actions, not words, sharing financial information as we deserve. The current president, Rick Aliperti, in our opinion after 6 months of observation; speaks with “forked tongue”. “Call me and I’ll explain!”. Publicly, he professes to want to have “Open and Honest” communications, listen to owner’s questions and concerns… behind the scenes he was a different person.
No Mr. Aliperti, we don’t think we own a million dollar condo but it is our investment, our money, our “million dollars” relatively and a large investment, or home for many others. Whether we paid $500 or $500,000, we don’t want mismanagement of our funds, increased costs and you have not demonstrated any financial knowledge or understanding of the governing documents. You have continued to run the legal bills up along with the other BOD members. Since the meters have been fixed (though not being used) it appears it would be time to resign, right?
Once elected, board members have alot of power to affect our investment and determine hire the property manager. At VLC, since April 2013, we have had a property management company who assigns the manager; no reviews of their individual backgrounds or qualifications and for those who have had condo issues and called, find that they are not hands-on. Our former manager was not popular with many owners but was present frequently and when an issue from billing or late fees was to be disputed, handled it one to one. Not “call the Longwood corporate office”. It is more important to have a hands-on property manager and board members who understand that they are representatives only; not kings and queens who make the rules but don’t have to follow themselves. (ex: One dog rule – what board member has 2 and likes to issue violations to other owners?)
A prospective buyer visited the pool in May 2014 and remarked about the turnoff from the web posted 2013 Rules and Regulations. We agreed and many others have also. To read them is to think VLC is a police state, which in some ways it has turned into.
The below picture is a violation of the current rules regarding floats and no food or beverages at the pool, even on the deck. (See the crowd?) The pool is 5 feet at its deepest, Jim (the model) can swim and I used to be a lifeguard. We respect others as much as possible as all should and intend to continuing enjoying our pool and property as we have for the past 7 years. We won’t have two pets though. 🙂