Getting Ahead of the Curve Educational Resources for Boards

Getting Ahead of the Curve

 Being elected to a condo or HOA board is a great feather in one’s cap, but it’s important to understand what the job requires. To encourage boards to be more  proactive in dispatching their duties, the Florida Department of Business and  Professional Regulation (DBPR) came up with a set of guidelines to help them do  just that.  

 State Requirements

 Florida, in fact, is one of the few states that require board members to be  trained. As of July 1, 2010, newly elected or appointed condo board members are  required to submit a certificate of satisfactory completion of an educational  course approved by the Florida DBPR, or an affidavit attesting that they read  Florida Statute 718 and all of their governing documents.  

 “Several years ago there were concerns that more and more associations were  experiencing fraud or problems of one sort or another. Several groups pushed  the legislature for reforms including making education mandatory,” says attorney Donna DiMaggio Berger, a partner with the community association  law firm of Katzman Garfinkel & Berger (KGB). “The mandatory education component never passed, but the certification language  we have today was the compromise position. While the data didn’t support the assertions of widespread problems, clearly most communities could  benefit from having a knowledgeable board in place.”  

 New directors can become certified by either signing a certificate stating that  they have read, understand and will work to uphold their community’s governing documents and policies to the best of his or her ability, and will  faithfully discharge his or her fiduciary responsibility to the association's  members.  

 Affadavits are great of course, but the more popular option is having new  directors attend a state-approved educational course.  

 “There is a belief that through education, complaints [of fraud and other  mismanagement] will be substantially diminished,” says attorney Eric Glazer of Glazer & Associates, P.A., who hosts the radio program “Condo Craze and HOAs” and teaches certification courses for boards of directors. “Despite the fact that a person may be a board member for a long time, they  should take the educational course as a refresher and as a way to learn the new  laws that have been passed over the years.”  

 If a board member fails to turn in a signed certificate to the secretary of the  association within 90 days of his or her election or appointment, he or she is  suspended and automatically removed from the board; his or her spot is then  filled by vote of the remaining directors.  

 The association must retain a director’s written certification or educational certificate for inspection by the members  for five years after a director’s election. However, the failure to have the certifications or certificates on  file does not affect the validity of any action by the board. Also important to  note: there is no similar requirement for HOA and cooperative directors  although many people think there should be.  

 “My group, the Community Advocacy Network (CAN), drafted language last year in HB  319 that would have transported the certification language from the Condominium  Act over into the HOA and Cooperative Acts but that bill unfortunately died in  a session dominated by redistricting concerns,” Berger says.  

 Continuing Education

 There are a wide variety of resources available to directors who wish to learn  more to better serve their communities—many of them free of charge.  

 Of course, The South Florida Cooperator is an excellent—and free!—source of information on a wide variety of issues of concern to boards and  residents, including law and legislation, energy conservation, insurance, and  board operations, just to name a handful. There's also the upcoming South Florida Cooperator'sannual Condo, HOA & Co-op Expo, being held at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention  Center in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, December 6th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  

 Like The South Florida Cooperatoritself, admission to the Expo is free—but the information and educational opportunities offered within are invaluable.  With nearly 200 exhibitor booths, a full day of educational seminars for board  members and owners, and advice booths staffed by industry professionals—all for free—the Expo is a one-stop educational bonanza for South Florida's residential real  estate community. For more information on who is exhibiting at the show, to  sign up as an exhibitor, or to register for the event, go to  

 There are lots of other options for education-minded board members too, says  Berger. “Many community association law firms offer classes, as does the Condominium  Ombudsman’s Office and some management companies,” she says. “Only newly elected and appointed condominium directors are required to be  certified. Long-term directors do not have to be certified, and there is not  yet a certification renewal requirement. Still, many directors come to our  classes time and again because they enjoy the learning experience and the  ability to discuss issues with fellow association leaders.”  

 The Community Associations Institute

 There are several South Florida-based CAI chapters that offer board member  education as well. Jayme E. Gelfand, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, a property manager and  the executive director of the CAI Gold Coast chapter in Boca Raton  (, says that free certification classes are offered  throughout the year by CAI, ranging across a variety of topics. “Renewal is once a year after their annual meetings.”  

 Other resources are the CAI-Southeast Florida chapter in Cooper City  ( directed by Jill Prioetti, and the CAI-West Florida  chapter in Sarasota ( headed by Vicki McClenathen. All  eight chapters in the Sunshine State offer seminars, conferences and continuing  education seminars throughout the year.  

 Dozens of Florida legal and management firms also offer courses related to this  training. Look up accredited coursework for condo board training at the DBPR  website at www.myflorida ApprovedEducation  Providers.html.  

 Camp It Up

 Katzman Garfinkel & Berger and its not-for-profit Community Advocacy Network run a six-acre campus  in Margate called the Katzman Garfinkel & Berger Law and Learning Center, where board members and managers visit weekly  to attend more than two dozen free educational courses.  

 “We produce a Law and Learning Guidebook Series that includes guidebooks on lien  collection and foreclosure issues; disaster preparation and recovery; a  legislative update at the end of each legislative session, construction defects  and our latest release is Florida’s Political Process: A Guidebook for Community Associations,” Berger says. “All of our guidebooks can be found and downloaded for free at”  

 The firm also runs a Board Member Boot Camp, which teaches newbies and veteran  board members alike the survival tools they need to best serve their  communities. In addition to providing board member certification, the camp  (which took place on September 29th) provides five hours of continuing  education for managers.  

 “Unlike some typical legal classes where an attorney in a suit may be standing  behind a podium plowing through some fairly dry material, our Boot Camp  experience is meant to be fun, interactive and memorable,” Berger says. “We have held these around the state and now have Boot Camp groupies who come to  each of these widely anticipated events.”  

 Managers Play a Role

 Many management companies offer educational courses for directors and they  encourage their boards to attend them. Some managers may play an even more  direct role by checking with the secretary to ensure that the new director  certificates have all been turned in.  

 “The manager should provide guidance to the board members as needed,” Gelfand says. “Good managers are well versed in all these topics and coach their boards as the  matters arise. They advise and recommend and attempt to enlighten their board  members.”  

 Unfortunately, too often board members decide not to heed the advice that a  manager offers. Often they need to hear it from an attorney or other  professional before they become believers.  

 Tips for Newbies

 For those taking a new seat on the board, most pros say it’s advisable to take things slow and not think you know everything right away.  

 “I would suggest that new board members listen and ask questions at the first few  board meetings without feeling the need to take on tasks immediately,” Berger says. “It is important for these newcomers to obtain a working knowledge of any  long-term or pending projects, any budgetary or legal issues that may need  swift board attention, etc.”  

 Naturally, new board members who are not familiar with the governing documents  should read them thoroughly and still attend an educational class even though  they are not required to do so.  

 “It is even better if the entire board decides to take a class together as it is  a great teambuilding experience and the highest functioning communities are the  ones where the board members actually like each other and work well together,  Berger says.  

 Glazer advises that all board members take the certification course and not just  sign an uncertified affidavit saying you read the Florida statutes.  

 “You should learn the law because it will save you from the aggravation of  lawsuits and/or complaints to the DBPR about your association,” he says. “I am the first attorney in the State of Florida to design a certification course  that was approved by the Florida DBPR. I have now had the honor of certifying  over 2,500 Floridians, who are now eligible to serve on a condo board.”  

 Web Education

 In addition to classes and materials, more and more directors are using social  media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and others to find answers to  their association issues and/or to find like-minded individuals serving these  functions throughout the country.  

 “There is an abundance of information out there. Finding a class or resource  material has become less of a problem,” Berger says. “The problem for the future will be whether or not all of that information is  accurate. Directors would be well advised to be picky and look around for the  educational opportunities that actually increase their knowledge base in a  manner that is most likely to make them better board members.”   

 Keith Loria is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The South  Florida Cooperator.  

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