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New condominium directors must sign papers or go to class
by: Rob Samouce
One of the new Florida condominium laws that went into effect back in 2010 was tweaked again as part of House Bill 1195 that became effective July 1, 2011.

This law is an example of good intentions turning into a nuisance hoop that newly elected or appointed volunteers to condominium association boards of directors must jump through in order to qualify to be on, and then to stay on, the board. The intent of the legislation was to try to get volunteer directors to become better directors by having them do something to help them better understand what their unpaid job entails and how their condominium should operate.

However, in order to accomplish this laudable goal, the legislation says that new directors must either sign a new director certification form or attend an education class and obtain a certification of completion. As long as the proper form is signed or the director sleeps through a class, the new directors will be qualified to sit on the board.

Interesting is the fact that there is no penalty if the director does not do what the form says he or she did (has read "all" of condominium association's governing documents - most directors never have and never will) or pay attention in a class (no test is given or required to be passed by the attendees).

As long as the certification form is signed and turned in or the class completion form is turned in within ninety (90) days of the election or appointment, the director is good to go in serving on the board.

Specifically, Section 718.112(2)(d)3.b., Florida Statutes now provides that: "Within 90 days after being elected to the board, each newly elected or appointed director shall certify in writing to the secretary of the association that he or she has read the association's declaration of condominium, articles of incorporation, bylaws, and current written policies; that he or she will work to uphold such documents and policies to the best of his or her ability; and that he or she will faithfully discharge his or her fiduciary responsibility to the association's members. In lieu of this written certification, within 90 days after being elected or appointed to the board, the newly elected or appointed director may submit a certificate of having satisfactorily completed the educational curriculum administered by a division-appointed condominium education provider within 1 year before or 90 days after the date of election or appointment. The written certification or educational certificate is valid and does not have to be resubmitted as long as the director serves on the board without interruption. A director, who fails to timely file the written certification or educational certificate, is suspended from service on the board until he or she complies with this sub-subparagraph. The board may temporarily fill the vacancy during the period of suspension. The secretary shall cause the association to retain a director's written certification or educational certificate for inspection by the members for 5 years after a director's election. Failure to have such written certification or educational certificate on file does not affect the validity of any board action."

The state of Florida is now forcing non-paid volunteers to sign pieces of papers or go to classes but does not really care if the directors really did what they said they did when they signed the paper (read all the governing documents-most didn't) or if they paid attention in class (no test - just turn in attendance paper). This recent requirement really looks like big brother-big government silliness to me.

In any event, so that this qualification requirement for directors does not become an issue at your condominium association, all of your directors should sign the certification form at your organizational board meeting following your annual meeting this season. Then, your association's secretary should keep the forms with the association records. If you don't have a form, your association's attorney or manager should be able to get one for you.

In the alternative, if any of your new directors want to attend an educational curriculum, you can check with the Division of Condominium in Tallahassee for when and where such classes will be given.

We do know that the local South Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Community Association Institute (CAI) will be providing such classes. For information as to local CAI classes for directors, the chapter's email address is: caisgcc@comcast.net.

Also know that CAI will be having its annual trade show, which is open to the public, at Alico Arena on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University on Friday, Feb. 24, 2012 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The trade show will include legal update and legal forum question and answer seminars.
Rob Samouce, a principal attorney in the Naples law firm of Samouce, Murrell, & Gal, P.A., concentrates his practice in the areas of community associations including condominium, cooperative and homeowners' associations, real estate transactions, closings and related mortgage law, general business law, estate planning, construction defect litigation and general civil litigation. This column is not based on specific legal advice to anyone and is based on principles subject to change from time to time. Those persons interested in specific legal advice on topics discussed in this column should consult competent legal counsel.