Updated November 19th, 2009.
The Sand Lake Hills Homeowners Association (SLHHOA) in Orlando, Florida, is quickly approaching it's annual membership meeting, but something is amiss.
According to Florida statutes, a homeowners associations are required to give notice of their meetings and allow all homeowners and members entry to their meetings, as well as have the right to speak. The SLHHOA has failed to follow this simple statute, and this is not the first time they have done so. The reason why they do not want every homeowner to speak: the association is actively trying to annex over 10 surrounding neighborhoods by rewriting their covenants and restrictions, violating the directions set up in the very same covenants and restrictions they wish to change, so that they can levy assessments of any amount at anytime on every homeowner, regardless of membership.
The SLHHOA meetings were once held in the free meeting room at the local library, but they started a policy of exclusion, only allowing members entry, despite what the law says. The association didn't always deny entry, it was only last year that they had started, and that is because of the increased opposition to their plans of annexing the surrounding neighborhoods. Even at their last "open" meeting, they refused homeowners who were not members the ability to speak, banging their gavels whenever someone asked a question. Because of their policy of exclusion, the library banned them from using their meeting room (the association claimed the county started charging for the room, but the building and room remain to be free, as well as owned by a local non-profit, not the county).
The SLHHOA then tried moving their meeting into the conference room of a local real estate agency, but as soon as the owner found out, he kicked them out at the last minute, and the association saught refuge at a Holiday Inn, only calling members the night before about the change. The association seemed to be catching on and scheduled their next meeting in the club house of a neighboring subdivision, which happens to be gated, with entrance being permitted when the member presented "proof" that they were members of the association. They were eventually kicked out and had to return to the Holiday Inn.
This next meeting, to be held Saturday, November 21st, has skipped trying to be anywhere else, and the board has already scheduled it to be at the Holiday Inn, but disclosure of the event has been kept secret. There is no mention of the meeting on their website and zero signs have been placed around the neighborhood advertising the meeting. The only place you can find out about the meeting is by entering a restricted part of the website, which allows for proxy voting, but only the location is disclosed. There is no mention of the time the meeting will be held at. There is also interesting questions regarding the proxy votes as well. This concern had been raised last year regarding the proxy votes and the annual membership meeting.
According to corporate by-laws, the SLHHOA's votes for the board, to be held at the annual membership meeting, must be conducted by hand, not by proxy, yet they board has issued proxy votes, which grants the board to act on behalf of the member, with a list of candidates for the board, naming only incumbents. The proxy vote also states that the proxy grants power to the board over the member's vote at the meeting "or at any change, adjournment, or continuation" of the meeting, basically giving the board power to do whatever they want once everybody goes home, or to hold another meeting on another day to conduct business. It is also interesting because the proxy explicitly states that the meeting is "strictly limited to the Board, Board invited guests or speakers, and members in good standing," despite the clear wording in Florida statutes that states "members and parcel owners have the right to attend all membership meetings and to speak at any meeting."
It seems that when faced with any opposition, the board attempts to circumvent confrontation by not disclosing their whereabouts, or refusing access to anyone that stands in their way, or in this case, those whom they wish to collect money from but are not members. It is also interesting because of their abuse of the proxy voting, which by granting them power over the votes is in itself an unethical practice, but because the board typically uses such proxies as an excuse to do anything, but fail to provide transparency surrounding the proxies they have collected. It is also interseting because of their practice of using proxies to establish quorom and conduct business, while not disclosing the location of their meeting, or disclosing it to only a close inner circle,essentially guaranteeing them a majority.
It is this reason why loss assessment coverage is a good idea. If no homeowner was willing to combat this matter, they could be forced to pay excessive assessments, that could potentially put them out of house and home.
To get a better understanding of this absurd situation, visit this website, which is hosted by the homeowner suing the homeowners association, as well as posts by various homeowners in that group of neighborhoods.