Question: Can the board enact a policy to exclude certain categories of dogs that are perceived to be dangerous such as rottweilers or pit bulls?
Answer: The board has the authority to make rules but should not do so without feedback from the members. This is especially true of pet issues which are among the most sensitive HOA topics. However, the board does have a responsibility to establish reasonable rules to protect the residents while in the common area from dangerous animals.
While rottweilers and pit bulls have a potential for aggressive behavior, there are other breeds and breed mixes that have the same potential. So, policies targeting dangerous pets need to focus on behavior, not breed. Here is an excerpt from a pet policy designed to address this issue:
A dog shall be deemed "dangerous" if when unprovoked:
1. Demonstrates aggressive behavior toward a person in the common area that requires defensive action to prevent bodily injury; or
2. Bites a person in the common area; or
3. Kills or causes serious injury to another domestic animal in the common area.
For more about this topic, go to www.dogbitelaw.com.
Question: Is there a survey form or checklist we could distribute to the members to evaluate the effectiveness of our professional management company?
Answer: The problem with such a form or checklist is that HOA managers do many things that the members have little involvement in or knowledge about. When a member does express an opinion on management, it's often a negative one based on a particular incident in which they were personally involved such as rule enforcement or money collection. Because of this, polling the membership isn't of much value. However, the board should have a mechanism for evaluating management performance since the directors presumably know what the manager is hired to do (if not, reread the management agreement). There is a Manager Screening Checklist in the Manager Issues section of www.Regenesis.net which can be used to develop a scorecard.
Question: While I understand that the board should deal only with a unit owner when a tenant breaks the HOA rules, wouldn't it make sense to provide the tenant a copy of the correspondence with the unit owner?
Answer: The homeowner association only has direct authority to enforce rules, fines and penalties on unit owners so that is where notices of tenant rule violations should be directed. However, it makes good sense to copy both the tenant and the rental manager (if someone other than the unit owner) on the correspondence. That way, all are informed of the issue simultaneously and quicker resolution is more likely.
Question: Our board gives permission to unit owners from time to time to extend their decks into the common area or to fence in a section behind their unit. Is this kosher?
Answer: No, the board should not be doing this since it gives a particular owner exclusive use of common area which belongs to all members. Only the members have this kind of authority and it can only be accomplished by amending the governing documents. Approving this kind of amendment may require a significant percentage of the members to pass and should never be done without consulting with an attorney that is knowledgeable about both your applicable state laws and your governing documents.
Question: Our annual meeting is coming up soon. Is it appropriate for the management company to count the ballots in a board election?
Answer: The management company should steer clear of counting votes since there is a conflict of interest. Instead, the board should appoint an Election Committee of two or more members who are not running for office to tally the votes. The votes and the tally sheet should be kept on file until the next election.