Thursday, January 16, 2014

Community Association Managers (CAMs)

Laws Regulating CAMs

Fla. Stat. 468.431 requires a CAM to be licensed when "the association served contains more than 10 units or have an annual budget or budgets in excess of $100,000." The management firm is required to have a license as well. CAMs are limited in what duties they can perform by statute as well as an advisory opinion issued by the Florida Supreme Court. 
The advisory opinion has designated activities which would constitute the unlicensed practice of law, such as drafting amendments to documents, drafting proxies, preparing liens, advising anyone how the law applies to a set of facts or circumstances, interpreting statutes, administrative code, the governing documents of an association or contracts, drafting contracts or drafting legal notices. CAMs are licensed and regulated by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation ("DBPR"). Effective July 1, 2013 laws were enacted to create more regulation of CAMs and penalties for violating the regulations. A CAM can be subject to penalties for any violation of Chapters 718, 719 and 720 of the Florida Statutes.

But the Real Problem Is.....
There seems to be a rise in the number of complaints I hear from associations who state their CAM who make decisions without consulting the Board of Directors ("BOD") or take actions against homeowners without BOD approval. I frequently come across liens and foreclosures for trivial amounts against homes which the BOD will claim they did not authorize. I often expect the BOD is not being honest and is throwing the CAM under the bus, but there have been some instances I have investigated where the lien or foreclosure is not in any meeting minutes and the CAM made the decision on their own. I have heard from several associations the CAM handles all the finances, including which bills to pay and when. I have even come across associations claiming the CAM will not let them have access to the association funds. Even more troubling is when the CAM is making board decisions without input from the BOD. The courts have judicially dissolved associations which delegate the board duties to a CAM. It rarely happens, but has happened. Or worse yet, the court can appoint a receiver, which makes assessments skyrocket. Board members need to know their fiduciary duty is to operate and manage the association, including making financial decisions and signing checks. If no one is watching the checkbook except for the person who gets paid regularly with checks, you are not doing your duty! Don't get me wrong -- there are some wonderful CAMs out there, but the BOD should know what their CAM is doing because the association is responsible for the CAMs actions.

Single Biggest Mistake Is.....
Whenever there is a turnover of board members due to an election or other events, the CAMs are naturally concerned because the new BOD can terminate their contract. All too often I come across CAMs who will continue to work with the former BOD to try and oust the new BOD. I have seen CAMs sabotage records and meetings and provide former board members with privileged documents. I have seen CAMs try to circumvent the election process. Associations need to know if their CAM is engaging in this behavior the association needs to replace the CAM because the potential risk of litigation against the association is high in these situations.

Conclusion
Board members need to communicate with their CAMs at the slightest hint of these problems. Sometimes the BOD is sending mixed signals and the CAM needs clear instructions. Anytime there is a change in board members, the board should meet with the CAM to discuss expectations. If something does happen, the board should provide the CAM with a letter outlining the situation and an opportunity to cure the situation. The BOD-CAM relationship is supposed to be a partnership and not a battle of egos.

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