BLACK FRIDAY – NOV 2015 @ VLC

This web blog is the result of research AND analysis conducted by the domain owner and writer, AND opinions offered and is not sanctioned by the appointed (not elected for 2015) board of directors of Van Loon Commons Condos.   The author is an original pre-construction owner, along with her husband and is invested for the long term, or until the condo is worth at least what they paid for it (not likely to occur during natural lives) and has significant interest in seeing honest and qualified persons serving on the board.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We are having a 2nd one today, as we have such a large family, so we are doubly blessed (or fattened).

Today, (11/27/15)  is exactly 2 months from the scheduled, annual owners meeting on January 27, 2016.  At the annual meeting, the results of the election of new board members are announced OR if only 5 candidates for the 5 positions submit notices of intent, they are appointed (as long as not disqualified for other exceptions under statutes).  This occurred in 2015 with 5 board members being appointed without a ballot process.

The State of Florida has a process for condo elections and it is required that the association send the “first notice” no less than 60 days prior to the Annual Meeting to ALL owners.  Board vacancies would be “advertised” with this notice to allow owners to submit their interest in being a candidate, within the prescribed time frames. I have attached a brochure which can be found on Google, as well as many other websites with explanations of the process.

Florida Elections for Condominiums     Florida Elections for Condominiums

UPDATE:  We just received the “1st Notice” of the Annual Meeting and solicitation for candidates.  We are curious when the Canadian owners will be receiving this, which indicates that it was mailed on 11/25/15.  Also, the return contact person is C/O CAM Lisa Mason.  ???

At the budget meeting on 11/16/15, the Treasurer announced that our CAM, Lisa Mason had been promoted within Associa and would be working on other opportunities. Several owners had tried to contact Ms. Mason during that week and the week of 11/23/15, regarding billing or other issues and did not receive any response. One owner called the corporate office and was told Ms. Mason went to a different association.   We emailed a  Congratulations on her promotion. Oh well….

Also, we were told that a board meeting was held on 11/23 though no agenda was posted to the portal, nor was it listed on the calendar.  Yes, state statute only requires 48 hour posting on the property building.  And that is what the board likes to stick to. Bare minimum.  There were very few owners present due to the Thanksgiving holiday.  Deja vu to the Thanksgiving Eve meeting in 2013 almost.

Jim and I were present for the 11/16/15 Budget meeting which I summarized and emailed to a few owners who are considering candidacy for the board.  I will post some thoughts and analysis of this later of budget later.   There are several serious issues for concern – the increase from $6k to $20k of Legal.   One owner asked why this increase?  The response from the Treasurer was that it was only a buffer; they didn’t know that they would spend that amount.

In our opinion, it is not a buffer.  To explain, the board switched back to the auditor (Stroemer and Co we’ve been told) recommended by the attorneys, in previous years and provided a hefty increase in his rate for the annual audit; from $4,500 to $6,000.   (Has anyone actually shopped for a truly independent CPA?  No – that was rhetorical)  This is a very expensive audit for the boilerplate report we receive and the 2013 audit, by Stroemer, was signed off on after questioning a Water expense total of $654.  The amount was not even close to correct  – the actual was closer to $30,000 due to water meter battery failure and board members choosing to not to repair and collect the funds owed to the association.    So what are we paying for?

In the years we have owned, the only auditors used have been recommended by the attorneys or management company.   The recommendation presented to VLC owners by the auditor, for changing to Pooled Reserves which can be a serious problem.  The board voted to adopt it Nov 16th, 2015.   I have proposed a volunteer audit committee for the past 2 years as owners can vote to waive the paid audit and VLC has several retired and employed (myself included) degreed accountants and auditors.

As for the projected legal expense increase – is the board planning to pay the 1 or 2 attorneys to attend the Annual Meeting, like the former president did in January 2014? That cost nearly $4,000 for that day alone, at $675 per hour for their attendance to support the “agenda” of the president and run our election.  IMHO – pathetic.  Is the board anticipating any litigation that owners are not aware of?  (Personal injury, water meter failures, ??)

This association has struggled through the crash of the economy,  numerous owner foreclosures, and has barely begun to build reserves. An owner vote (not just board members) is required to move the current reserves which are “dedicated”, meaning Roof $$ are for Roof, Painting $$ are for Painting, etc, to the Pool.  Pooled, meaning the board members have the flexibility to spend however they decide-not line item savings or a vote to move from one to another.  The board has operated without regard to the statutes already – Example: Moving $40,000 of unspent 2014 Special Assessment funds in to operating expenses in 2015 rather than crediting owners for amount or having a vote.

Do board members possess sufficient financial backgrounds/qualifications or have long term commitments to the community?  Are their backgrounds checked or their stated qualifications, such as educational degrees verified?  The current president’s (president for 2 years) professed “commitment to the community” over and over.  His condo is listed as a pending sale after 3 years of ownership, purchasing for 95k and listing it for 144k.  The president prior to him  (1 year term) owned for about 4 years, purchasing for about 110k, and selling in the mid 130s.  And before that, was a 3 year owner who paid in mid 80s and sold for about 109k.

The point?   The nature of Florida condos, is short term ownership. The population is older, many come for the winter only or on occasion have invested when the market crashed to make a quick, short term profit while either renting the condo or enjoying it themselves. To  give board members complete control over reserves for fixed assets that WILL need to be replaced, repaired, etc  who may choose to use the funds for whatever pet projects they deem important, then they sell, take their 20-50k profit, and leave the remaining owners with depleted the reserves is just PLAIN STUPID.   Over the years Jim and I have cringed, listening to the different board members and their personal plans, such as filling in the hot tub.  There have been changes recently that are not progress – another post, another day.

Pooled reserves are easier for the board but are not good for owners.  Be aware that the CPA or attorney who is supporting Pooled Reserves or any issue from the board was also selected and paid by the board.

Google the issue yourself; read and think.  Also, check out www.ccfj.net – Jan Bergmann.   He is terrific.

Next up: Budget meeting and Perv Cameras, Volunteer Committees and Associa Gulf Coast

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