Dear Mr. Azrael:
We are retired senior citizens who live in a Baltimore condominium.
In addition to a monthly condo fee, we pay an annual fee to our community's umbrella association to cover other common elements for the entire community. Each of these entities are governed by separate boards composed of five condo unit owners who are elected to make decisions and expenditures for the community.
Until the past few years, both the condo council and the association board minutes were provided monthly to unit owners. Now, summary reports are made quarterly. Unless owners serve on the board or attend regular meetings, information in the quarterly reports is much too late for owners' ideas and suggestions.
The condo board did agree to send us monthly minutes upon request. But the umbrella association board refused. Also, we were instructed to come directly to the office each month to review the minutes. Regulations do not prohibit our receipt of minutes nor do they clearly state when and how minutes are to be provided to condo owners.
What are our rights? Are we not entitled to receive copies of minutes on a timely basis, especially before implementation of major board actions and money decisions?
Can we place our annual fee in escrow until there is an owner-friendly solution?
There is no requirement in Maryland law that a condo or homeowners association send copies of board of directors' minutes to owners. The members do have a legal right to examine and copy association records, including board minutes, during normal business hours upon reasonable notice.
Beyond this minimum right to inspect and copy records, the bylaws of the association might provide for minutes to be sent to owners. However, you indicate regulations of your associations don't expressly state when and how minutes are to be provided.
The association board of directors, as the governing body, has the right to set policy in regard to disseminating minutes. The condo board has voted to send minutes to members who request them; the board of the umbrella association has voted not to send minutes to members. Neither of these policies violates Maryland law. Perhaps the association board can be persuaded by you and other members to change its policy.
If other owners feel as strongly as you do about this issue, it might be possible to amend the association bylaws to require that copies of board minutes be sent to members. You will have to consult the association declaration and bylaws to determine the procedure and vote required to amend bylaws. Often, a "super-majority" of owners is needed to approve a bylaw amendment.
The Maryland Condominium Act provides that, unless a higher percentage is required by the bylaws, amendments can be made by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the unit owners.
Meetings of the board of directors are open to members, except when confidential or privileged matters (such as advice from legal counsel) are being discussed. Therefore, with some effort, you should be able to keep up to date on actions taken at board meetings.
You have no right to pay your annual dues in escrow until a solution favorable to owners is addressed.