Q: I live on a residential airpark with covenants and deed restrictions that I consider to be pretty good. When I was looking into the property I followed the advice you offered during a Sun ‘n Fun presentation about taking the CC&Rs to a good attorney and making sure I understood them.
After buying the property and moving here I discovered there are a few property owners who have failed to pay their annual assessments. The board of directors keeps talking about the situation but doesn’t appear to be doing anything.
At the last meeting I asked for the identity of those failing to meet the financial requirements of their agreements and was told that the board didn’t want to make that information public for fear of legal action or other problems.
My questions: Should the identity of the miscreants be disclosed and what action should the board take?
A: This is a very common problem that isn’t unique to residential airparks.
The New York Times ethics columnist Randy Cohen recently wrote on this issue. He quoted a condominium’s board president who noted that two condo owners owed the association about $20,000. He said legal action had been initiated against the two and all other condo owners have been informed about this without identifying the two. Cohen says there is disagreement among the directors about whether or not the two should be identified.
The ethicist goes on to say that all condo owners are entitled to information about the association’s finances, including the identity of those not meeting the financial agreements they entered into when buying their condos.
The columnist goes on to write that the board should alert owners to significant developments, including legal actions. Such reports are not only ethical and legal but also commonplace.
An attorney that Cohen consulted said that most condo directors will reveal to the co-op or condo owners the names of those in arrears, but there is no legal requirement that the board do so. He did point out that if legal action has been taken, the names of those against whom action has been taken are probably public information already.
Legal action is usually explained in the CC&Rs and most likely is limited to filing a lien against the property.