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Q&A: Can Negligent Manager be Sued?

Q I live in a "luxury" condominium with 177 units. I've been here for 15 years. Due a to lack of proper maintenance by our former management company and property manager, it would be safe to say that our once exquisite homes have been run into the ground and are literally falling apart. (We hired a new management company about 6 months ago.)

Here are some of the problems we're facing: The outdoor garage was flooding when it rained, it was discovered that the beams were rusting, and we were told that the garage wasn't maintained properly and was in danger of collapsing. We borrowed $600,000 to pay for a renovation, which was completed last summer. It is still leaking water, parts are covered with tarps to protect the cars, and some of the structure is still not sound.

Bominite walkways from the street and throughout the courtyard have needed repair since I've been here. Our board president said she was told that the Bominite is capable of collapsing within 3 years. Apparently the BOD is trying to get a loan to pay for that cost which we've been told will be between $200,000 and $400,000.

A group of us are trying to vote out this Board of Directors. Based on the professional skills and knowledge of the unit owners in this group, they estimate that to get this place back in shape we need about $10,000,000. We're working on creative ways to do this. My question is: Can we sue the former management company for our current state of affairs? I'd appreciate any help or direction to move in that you might suggest.

—Falling Apart in Fort Lauderdale

A “My answer to this question is: ‘Yes, anyone has the right to sue. But are they the right party?’ asks Attorney Rachel E. Frydman, a managing member of The Frydman Law Group in Plantation.

“Due to the issues that this building is facing it does seem that the owners would blame management. However, besides management, you have to look at the Board of Directors. The board of directors were elected by the members and have a fiduciary duty to its members. It is their ultimate job to operate and maintain the association in the best interest of the membership. So unless the board of directors gave all powers to maintain and operate the association to management, the board of directors are the ones to blame. To sue the management company you would have to show that they were given direction to make repairs and failed to do so, or that they were asked advice by the board on what needed to be done and they told the board, ‘nothing.’ The best advice I can give is to recall the current board of directors and have the new board immediately begin getting bids and making repairs.”

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