The importance of transparent communication cannot be underscored in condo communities. Lack of clear, forthright communication between boards, managers and unit owners is one of the top perennial complaints association members have about living in their communities, whether they’re small, self-managed buildings or sprawling suburban developments. Residents need to rely on an open board, not one that is harboring secrets.
Florida law requires condo communities to be open and transparent. According to the State Attorney General’s Office website, “Florida began its tradition of openness back in 1909 with the passage of Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes or the ‘Public Records Law.’ This law provides that any records made or received by any public agency in the course of its official business are available for inspection, unless specifically exempted by the Florida Legislature. Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law was enacted in 1967. Today, the ‘Sunshine Law’ establishes a basic right of access to most meetings of boards, commissions and other governing bodies of state and local governmental agencies or authorities.”
Without transparency, suspicion flourishes, “When the association representatives are not effective in their communication, dissent among the owners tends to increase,” says Robert Kaye, managing firm member of Kaye Bender Rembaum in Pompano Beach. “When only those with negative messages about the association, the board, and/or management are communicating to the owners, and there is nothing from the association, owners may also tend to believe what they receive.”
Although community members are encouraged to participate, few rarely do. “The problem is that a lot of owners don’t participate. They aren’t in town, or can’t be involved with what’s going on in the community. It’s in the best interest of the membership to have a full and open discussion as to what’s going on, but people don’t show up unless the issues are important to them – and in most cases, that has to do with an increase in taxes or a major project. However, the board should always be communicating in some format, whether through newsletters, blogs or email blasts,” says Michael Hyman, an attorney and shareholder with the law firm Siegfried Rivera Hyman Lerner De La Torre Mars & Sobel LLP in Miami.
However, not all board/management teams are this organized. “For property managers, the most typical reason could be a lack of understanding combined with a lack of time due to overwork,” says Kaye. “In most situations, board members are volunteers to the community and laypeople. In some instances, there may be an issue of personal time to communicate, or just a basic lack of knowledge regarding methods to do so. Some may involve cost, as many are not using electronic means of communication for official business, and regular mailings can be expensive.”
Regardless, most boards try their best to improve communication with their community. “Establish methods of regular communication to and from the owners,” says Kaye, who suggests newsletters or a website. For those who can’t attend meetings, Kaye also suggests using closed circuit broadcasting of board meetings within the community.
Effective communication takes dedication and hard-work. Successful boards make sure they work at it and keep their residents informed.