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CONDO Q&A

Board Needs Help Dealing With Shoddy Earthquake Repairs

May 16, 1999|JAN HICKENBOTTOM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: Our condominium complex is relatively small, but we have a huge problem. The contractor who performed the post-earthquake repairs did poor-quality work. We all had to pay a large special assessment and move out of our units for several months. We were limited as to the choices of carpet and other replacements, and the board of directors handled everything.

When we moved back into our units, the work was not completed and we immediately noticed poor workmanship. Many of the senior citizens are concerned, but most of us are intimidated because the board president is an attorney and no one wants to have conflicts with the board.

Answer: Unfortunately, there are many associations that are still struggling with similar problems. Any large construction project can result in problems if the board doesn't seek adequate professional help to oversee the contracts, supervise the work, monitor payments and follow up on poor-quality work.

The board members are volunteers and they should not be expected to know everything. To protect the owners and reduce their own liability, the board should rely on professional help.

The board entered into the contracts on behalf of the owners. Now the board has a fiduciary duty to ensure that the contractor's mistakes are corrected. Even though the board president is an attorney, he or she may simply not know whom to contact. The board should seek the advice of several construction defect attorneys.

If the board fails to act, you and the other owners should get together and obtain legal advice immediately.

If warranties have already expired, the owners may have to file legal action against the board and the contractors.

For most people, especially senior citizens, their home is their largest investment. Don't allow your investment to go down the drain simply because the board is ignoring you.

No-Taping Policies Are Hard to Enforce

Q: Our community association has adopted a board policy that forbids tape-recording the meetings. Are there civil penalties for secretly taping the meeting? Does an individual have privacy rights that are violated when secret taping occurs?

A: There seems to be a lot more audiotape- and videotape-recording going on these days. To complicate the enforcement of your association's policy, small recorders are easy to carry in a pocket.

I know many associations are wrestling with this question, and I've attended law seminars where this topic was debated at length.

Some associations use their own tape recorder for the purpose of writing the minutes. In that case, anyone addressing the board or participating in the meeting should be made aware that the meeting is being recorded.

I have heard many attorneys say that the tape should be erased as soon as the minutes are approved. The minutes are the official record of the meeting, not a tape-recording. Tapes should never be transcribed word for word

In general, I am not in favor of tape-recording meetings, and I have advised several associations to adopt a policy prohibiting tape recordings.

I believe your association's policy of not allowing taping is proper, but I'm not sure how you can enforce it if someone is blatantly or surreptitiously taping a meeting. Even attorneys disagree on the manner of enforcing these policies.

I welcome the advice of attorneys who would like to write a brief note to me addressing this subject. An edited compilation of attorneys' responses will appear in a future column, based on space limitations.

*

Hickenbottom is a community association management consultant and a founding director of the California Assn. of Community Managers. Send questions to: Condo Q&A, Box 5068, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360.

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