December 2, 2011
CONDOMINIUM LIST AND EDUCATION PROGRAMS
By: James Orlando, Associate Analyst
You asked if the Secretary of the State's Office or the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) maintain a list of all condominium associations in the state. You also asked if any states have laws or programs to educate condominium owners or board members about the law and their rights.
Neither the Secretary of the State's Office nor DCP maintain a list of all condominium associations in the state. Some condominium associations are limited liability companies (LLCs), and thus register with the secretary of the state, but the LLC registry does not necessarily identify them as such (unless condominium appears in the title, for example). DCP does have a list of community association managers, who are required by law to register with DCP (see Chapter 400b).
The Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) maintains a list of condominium complexes that are approved for CHFA financing programs, provided they are eligible for Federal Housing Administration insurance. While the list is extensive, it does not include all condominiums in the state. The list is available at the following link: http://www.chfa.org/Homeownership/for%20Homebuyers/Tools%20Calculators%20and%20Look-ups/EligibleCondominiums.aspx.
Connecticut law does not require education programs for condominium owners or board members, but does require condominium boards to encourage board members and specified others to attend training programs.
We found laws or programs in a small number of other states concerning education for condominium unit owners or board members.
For example, Colorado requires condominium education for unit owners, which the associations must provide or cause to be provided free of charge. For another example, Florida requires new board members to meet educational requirements unless they, among other things, certify to having read the condominium documents. Florida law also requires the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes to provide condominium training programs to unit owners and board members.
Below, we describe Connecticut's law in more detail. We also summarize examples of condominium education programs or requirements in Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, and Nevada. Please note that these examples do not include required education or other qualifications for community association management companies or similar entities the associations hire. If you would like information on that topic, please let us know.
Connecticut law does not require education programs for condominium owners or board members. The Common Interest Ownership Act (CIOA) does require each common interest community association's executive board, or an officer the board designates, to encourage association and board members and officers and managing agents or people providing association management services, to attend, when available, a basic education program concerning the (1) purpose and operation of common interest communities and associations and (2) rights and responsibilities of unit owners, associations, and executive board officers and members.
The law authorizes the executive board, or an officer it designates, to arrange to have the program conducted by a private entity at a time and place convenient to a majority of association members. It allows all or part of any program fee to be designated as an association common expense and paid from association funds in whatever manner the executive board determines and the association approves as long as the bylaws and CIOA do not prohibit it (CGS § 47-261a).
Colorado law requires common interest community associations to provide, or cause to be provided, free education to unit owners as to the (1) association's general operations and (2) rights and responsibilities of owners, the association, and its board under Colorado law. The education must be provided at least annually.
Each association's executive board must determine criteria for compliance with this education requirement. The requirement does not apply to associations with time-share units (Col. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 38-33.3-209.7).
Colorado also allows a board to reimburse board members, as a common expense, for their actual and necessary expenses in attending educational meetings and seminars on responsible association governance. The course content must be specific to Colorado and refer to applicable Colorado statutes (Col. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 38-33.3-209.6).
Division of Condominiums and Condominium Ombudsman. In Florida, the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes enforces condominium laws. The law requires the division to provide training and educational programs for condominium association board members and unit owners. The training can include both online and live training. The division can review and approve education and training programs by private providers. The division must keep a current list of approved programs and providers and make the list available to board members and unit owners in a reasonable and cost-effective manner (Fl. Stat. Ann. § 718.501).
According to the division's most recent annual report, during the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the division provided courses in the following topics for unit owners and board members: board member responsibilities; budgets and reserves; elections; financial reporting; 2010 legislative updates; and the complaint process. The division conducted 42 training sessions during the year, reaching over 3,400 attendees. The division also produced and distributed over 2,300 copies of condominium educational CD-roms.
The annual report is available at the following link: http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/lsc/documents/FCTMHAnnualReportFinalFY2010-11.pdf.
The division maintains a page on its website with information related to condominium education, such as approved education providers, educational materials, and a link to request a CD (in either English or Spanish) as described above. The page is available here: http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/lsc/condominiums/CondoEducation.html.
Florida has an Office of the Condominium Ombudsman, located for administrative purposes within the division. The ombudsman serves as a resource for condominium matters. Among other duties, the ombudsman must develop policies and procedures to assist unit owners, boards of directors, board members, community association managers, and other affected parties to understand their rights and responsibilities under the law and the condominium documents governing their associations. The ombudsman must coordinate and assist in preparing and adopting educational and reference material. The ombudsman must also coordinate with private or volunteer providers of these services, so that the availability of these resources is made known to as many people as possible (Fl. Stat. Ann. § 718.5012). The ombudsman's web page is available here: http://bpr.state.fl.us/condos/.
Requirements for New Directors. In Florida, within 90 days after being elected or appointed to a condominium board, each newly elected or appointed director must do one of the following:
1. certify in writing to the association's secretary that he or she (a) has read the association's declaration, articles of incorporation, bylaws, and current written policies; (b) will work to uphold these documents and policies to the best of his or her ability; and (c) will faithfully discharge his or her fiduciary responsibility to the association's members or
2. submit a certificate of having satisfactorily completed the educational curriculum administered by a division-approved condominium education provider within 1 year before or 90 days after election or appointment.
A director who fails to timely file the written certification or educational certificate is suspended from serving on the board until complying with this requirement.
The written certification or educational certificate is valid as long as the director serves on the board without interruption. The association must keep a director's written certification or educational certificate for inspection by the members for five years after a director's election. Failure to have a written certification or educational certificate on file does not affect the validity of any board action (Fl. Stat. Ann. § 718.112(2)(d)).
Condominium Education Trust Fund. Hawaii law requires the state's Real Estate Commission to establish a condominium education trust fund (CETF) for educational purposes, including financing or promoting (1) education and research in the field of condominium management, condominium project registration, and real estate, to benefit the public and those required to be registered under applicable law; (2) the improvement and more efficient administration of associations; and (3) expeditious and inexpensive procedures for resolving association disputes (Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 514B-71).
The Real Estate Commission's 2010 Annual Report contains information on the commission's condominium education efforts. For example, the commission administered CETF subsidies for several commission-approved seminars. Seminar topics included a legislative update; annual meetings; board meetings; dealing with aging buildings; and more. The commission published two new information booklets, on owners' rights and responsibilities and board member powers and duties, and sponsored a free seminar in connection with the booklets.
The commission's 2010 Annual Report is available here: http://hawaii.gov/dcca/real/reports/Annual%20Report_2010_final.pdf.
Board Education. Under Hawaii law, condominium boards can spend association funds to educate and train themselves in subject areas directly related to their duties and responsibilities as directors. The law specifies that such funds are not deemed to be compensation to directors. The annual budget must include these education and training expenses as separate line items. These expenses can include registration fees, books, videos, tapes, other educational materials, and economy travel expenses (Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 514B-107).
In Nevada, the Commission for Common-Interest Communities and Condominium Hotels, among other duties, must develop and promote educational guidelines for (1) conducting board elections, board meetings, and unit owner meetings and (2) enforcing an association's governing documents through liens, penalties, and fines. The commission must also recommend and approve for accreditation programs of education and research relating to common interest communities, including programs related to (1) managing common interest communities; (2) unit sale and resale; (3) alternative methods to resolve disputes; and (4) enforcing liens on units for failure to pay assessments or fines, including by foreclosure (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 116.665).
Nevada law allows the commission to promulgate regulations setting standards for subsidizing educational programs for the benefit of unit owners, board members, and officers (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 116.670). The commission's web page is available here: http://red.state.nv.us/cic/commission_info.htm.
Nevada also has an Office of the Ombudsman for Owners in Common-Interest Communities and Condominium Hotels. The ombudsman's office offers free seminars for people who live, work, or own property within homeowners associations. Recent seminar topics included maintenance, insurance, and risk management; fiscal matters; and reserve studies.
The ombudsman's office created a Nevada Common-Interest Community Manual. Among other things, the manual explains what associations are and how they are governed, summarizes applicable laws, and explains how to use ombudsman services. The ombudsman's office has also created video tutorials for certain topics. More information is available on the ombudsman's web page, available here: http://red.state.nv.us/cic/cic.htm.