(WSVN) - If you live in a homeowner or condo association, you probably wonder where you monthly association fees are being spent. The treasurer of one South Florida association wanted to see their financial records and was not allowed. Is that legal? It’s why we bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Victor Aponte is an accountant, and so his neighbors elected him treasurer of their association to determine where their money was being spent. The result?
Victor Aponte, trying to review records: “They don’t even answer my request to look records.”
Over and over, Victor asked the property manager to see the financial records for the Hidden Court Association — and never got to see them.
Victor Aponte: “The treasurer is supposed to be the one that has the custody of the records. That’s supposed to be me!”
The association president apparently didn’t like the new treasurer wanting to see the records, sending Victor an email that says, “Your email appears suspicious to me, and I would be disappointed to find out that there is an underlying motive.”
Victor Aponte: “Something fishy, I think. They don’t want me to see the records, doing everything to stop me to do that.”
The property manager then wrote Victor could see the association’s financial records … if he paid $50 an hour.
Victor Aponte: “The first thing I did was laugh because it’s ridiculous. It’s like I am going to do a job and on top of that I have to pay for doing the job.”
In June, Victor gave up and called Help Me Howard, and the question is simple Mr. Finkelstein — can a treasurer see the books and does he have to pay to review them?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Yes, he can see the books and no, he doesn’t have to pay to review them. As the treasurer, he has a fiduciary duty to the association to review the books, so no one can prevent the treasurer from seeing them. Not the property manager, not the president. No one.”
I then spoke to the owner of Jon Mac and Associates which manages Hidden Courts. She told me Victor could see the records the next week. He was not allowed. Then she set another date. Victor was again not allowed to see the records. After two months of being stood up, we asked James Potts, an association law expert to help Victor.
James Potts Sr, Potts Legacy Law Group: “To deny the treasurer access to the books, there has to be something going on. When you say no to Patrick Fraser, something has to be going on.”
James offered to help the Hidden Courts association for free.
And after having to wait another month, the board president finally showed up with the financial records for the past two years. James and Victor were right — something was going on.
James Potts Sr: “Where there is smoke there is fire. When we got there, it was already ablaze.”
The president would not let us into the meeting to see the books. Victor says it was stunning.
Victor Aponte: “We found a lot of bounced checks, overdraft fees.”
With the eye of an accountant, Victor says he determined the the property manager had been paying about 30 percent of the maintenance fees to herself and her partner for work he was supposed to be doing.
Victor then put together a 59-page report for his fellow residents that showed the associations water bill, electric bill and trash bill had not been paid and were past due. Their property insurance had not been paid and is about to be canceled. The association has $11,000 in late bills and only has $4,200 in their account.
James Potts Sr: “And they have just allowed this association to be run into the ground. And these are condos that are valued at $165,000 to $185,000. Very nice townhomes, great location and highly desirable.”
The revelations continued. Potts says there was no record of the association president paying his maintenance fees for the last two years. The vice president hadn’t paid in seven months.
James Potts Sr: “So by failing to pay your monthly maintenance for 90 days, you remove yourself from the board immediately.”
With the president off the board, the property manager was fired. Her response? Pay me $26,475 for work I have done or would have done if you hadn’t fired me.
James Potts Sr: “I have never seen an association manager with such chutzpah.”
Potts plans to sue the property manager, her company and the board president.
And even though hidden court doesn’t have the money to pay all the late bills yet, Victor is hopeful things will be better for the homeowners.
Victor Aponte: “I am super happy with you, with Help Me Howard, all the help you provided to me.”
The residents now have someone they trust to run the association correctly. They elected Victor as president, and his first task — get all the places the association owes money to give them a little time to collect that money.
Hiding a problem you want to expose? Maybe you would treasure a solution. Contact us. We will open our legal books for anyone … we have nothing to hide. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.
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