Governance

Can a Board of Directors prohibit satellite dishes at a property?

The Federal Communications Commission established the Over-the-Air-Reception-Device rule to govern how community associations regulate installation of satellite dishes. While an association cannot “ban” satellite dishes, it can dictate where and how they be installed. In general, a satellite dish cannot be affixed to any portion of the common elements (roof, exterior walls) without board approval. Per the FCC rules, a Board cannot prohibit installation of a device within limited common elements, such as a patio or balcony reserved for the exclusive use of the owner. If a resident does not have such an area, or the balcony faces a direction from which they do not get a signal, a Board may, but is not required to, provide an alternate area for the satellite to be installed.

A Board of Directors can establish rules about satellites, such as size restrictions, method for installation, location and color, but the rules cannot result in a cost burden, delay of installation or loss of signal. A board can require that a resident give notice of his or her intent to install a satellite, but requiring approval is generally not permissible under the FCC rules (only for safety or historic preservation purposes).

What is Fiduciary Duty?

From time to time you may hear that the board of the association operates in a fiduciary capacity for the homeowners. Or you may read about the board’s fiduciary responsibility in the governing documents. Just exactly what does this mean?

Fiduciary duty simply means the board has an ethical and legal obligation to make decisions in the best interests of the entire association. That’s a small explanation for a very big responsibility.

Fiduciary duty includes a duty of loyalty to the association, which means that board members should not use their position to take advantage of the association. They should not make decisions for the association that benefit themselves at the expense of the association and its members.

Fiduciary duty also includes the duty to exercise ordinary care. This means board members must perform their duties in good faith and in a manner they believe to be in the best interest of the association, with such care as an ordinary prudent person in a similar position under similar circumstances would use.

In short, boards must act in the best interests of the association and act reasonably.

What do I do if my neighbor is having loud parties late at night?

Noise complaints are probably the most common, and one of the more difficult issues to resolve in community living. If your neighbor is having a loud party late at night, we suggest talking to your neighbor to let that person know there is a problem. Maybe he or she doesn’t realize how much noise travels to your unit. Remember to be reasonable with your complaint, everyone has the right to enjoy their home.

If a neighborly chat doesn’t solve the problem, review your Association’s Rules & Regulations to determine if there is a specific rule being violated. Many community associations have a section in the Rules dedicated to noise disturbances. The rule should define specific days and times designated as “quiet hours” and offer a method for reporting a noise disturbance to management and the board of directors. Be specific about the date, time and which unit is having the party. If possible, record the noise using a phone or other device. Asking other neighbors to file a complaint will help as well. Chances are, if the noise is bothering you, it’s bothering another resident too.

Your management company and Board of Directors will take the necessary steps to notify the unit owner of a complaint and issue any applicable fines for violating the Rules & Regulations. All unit owners have the right to a hearing with the Board should they wish to dispute the violation, so providing detailed and accurate information to management is important.

In severe cases where the noise is disturbing many people in the building, or there is suspected illegal activity going on, residents may need to contact the police for immediate attention.

How do I request records of the Association?

All requests for records need to be submitted in writing (letter or email) to the Board of Directors or the management company. Some association documents are generally available for homeowners to view and print online. Those documents that should be made readily available to homeowners include Declaration, By-laws, Plats of Survey, Rules & Regulations, Articles of Incorporation, Meeting Minutes and Insurance policies of the Association.

Requests for other documents such as contracts, owner contact information, election materials (ballots, proxies) and financial records of the Association must also state a proper purpose and such requests are subject to the Board’s approval. Other requests for items relating to employees, legal actions, unit owner balances, unit leases and sales need not be made available for inspection without a court order.

Any costs related to retrieving, copying and/or making records available shall be charged back to the unit owner making the request.

What right does the Board have to tell me what to do?

When you purchase a unit in a condominium or common interest community, you are agreeing to abide by the governing documents, sometimes referred to as the CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions) of the association. As a unit owner, you have both rights and responsibilities which are outlined in the Declaration, By-Laws and Rules & Regulations for your association.

Governing documents can restrict rentals, pets, smoking (even within units), parties, construction, deliveries, etc. It is imperative for prospective purchasers to read these documents prior to buying a unit and becoming a part of the association. Whether you agree with the rules or not, once an owner, you must abide by them or face violations, fines and other legal action authorized by the Board. See below for a description of the different types of governing documents your association might have.

  • In general, the Declaration is the primary founding document for a community; it establishes duties and responsibilities of the association and the legal right for the association to meet their duties and responsibilities. It also defines membership, as well as voting rights and property rights of members.
  • The By-Laws describe how the association shall operate. It describes the Board of Directors, terms and responsibilities, meeting frequency and meeting procedures, voting procedures for elections and special meetings, quorums, etc.
  • Rules & Regulations are a very specific set of guidelines for homeowners in a community establishing rules related to the use of common elements, payment of assessments, construction within units, sales, leasing and moving procedures, etc. Rules & Regulations are approved and can be amended by the Board of Directors.
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