Establishing, Utilizing and Setting the Ground Rules for Community Association Committees

Not enough community association boards make effective use of committees.  Committees can be very useful when it comes to providing recommendations to the board and assisting the board with carrying out its duties and responsibilities.  However, many associations do not take the time to establish committees or set parameters for their work so that committees may assist in the operation of the association.

Setting up committees is the responsibility of an association’s board of directors. The board must appoint the members of each committee at a properly noticed board meeting, during which the directors should provide instructions and set parameters for the scope of the committees’ responsibilities.

One of the best approaches is for boards of directors to use their annual meetings to establish various committees, appoint committee members and establish areas of purview for each. Each committee should have at least three members.

meetWith the exception of the rules enforcement committee, board members may also serve as members on committees. Many associations choose to have a board member on each committee along with two non-director volunteers, as this enables the board member to keep their fellow directors abreast of the committee’s work and progress.

The only committee that is required by law for Florida community associations is the rules enforcement committee, which is also often referred to as the fining, violation or grievance committee. Associations that wish to levy fines and impose the suspension of use rights for violations must utilize such a committee to do so. Per Florida law, this committee cannot be comprised of board members or spouses or relatives of board members in order to maintain its independence from the board.

Fines or suspensions may only be imposed after the association provides at least 14-days written notice to the owner, occupant, licensee or invitee to be fined or suspended, and they must be provided an opportunity for a hearing before the rules enforcement committee. During these hearings, the committee should hear and evaluate the alleged violator’s side of the story behind the underlying fine. The hearing should be closed to all members except for the alleged violator and the corresponding unit owner, should the violator be their tenant. At its conclusion, the committee members should vote on whether to confirm or reject the fine or suspension levied by the board, which requires a majority vote to be imposed.

The other most common types of committees are the budget committee, which assists the board with creating the annual budget, and the architectural review committee, which is typically charged with reviewing any requests for construction, improvements or alterations taking place on association property or within a unit or exterior of a lot.

By utilizing committees and ensuring that they are staffed by dedicated volunteers, associations can facilitate their operations while also avoiding overburdening board members with too many issues and responsibilities. When first establishing committees, boards of directors would be well advised to consult with highly qualified association legal counsel regarding their creation and setting forth the scope of their responsibilities.