Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Do Members Get to Speak At Meetings?

One of the most misunderstood statutes governing community associations (homeowner and condo) is the statute giving owners the right to speak at board meetings or members’ meetings.

Members, under Fla. Stat. 720.303 (homeowner associations) and Fla. Stat. 718.112(2)(c) (condo associations) have a right to speak at meetings on any agenda item. The association has the right; however, to adopt “reasonable” rules regarding frequency, duration and manner. There’s that term again – reasonable. I equate reasonable to requiring costly litigation to define the term.

Industry practice has been to allow owners to speak for up to three minutes at the end of a meeting, which was how the statutes read. This is counter-intuitive because the agenda items have been discussed and voted upon by the board. It negates any impact the speaker has in voicing their opinion. The statutes have been changed to be more flexible, but the associations have not.

Playing devil’s advocate, I can understand the need to conduct business this way. Every association has at least one member who could be a filibuster in the Florida Legislature. They will challenge every topic and monopolize the meeting. This means meetings last hours and other owners quit attending.

I urge the associations to adopt rules regarding the owners’ right to speak at meetings and adopt something reasonable. Here’s an idea – any topic that requires the board to vote should allow the owners to speak for three minutes, speak only once on that topic, and the speaker will be timed.

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