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How much do you know about HOA's in Florida? Do you understand the HOA covenants and restrictions? What about HOA dues, fees, or special assessments? HOA's or homeowner associations in Florida are usually commonplace in most new, single-family home developments, and generally in every condominium or townhome communities. The HOA is the ruling and administration organization in the complex, subdivision, or development, and is usually comprised of an HOA board that is made up of volunteer homeowners.
The central concept regarding a homeowners’ association (HOA) is that the residents of the community elect volunteer homeowners to the board of directors of the HOA. The board of director’s act as the governing body that oversees essential issues that come up in the community. The primary responsibilities of the board include representing the community resident’s best interests in protecting the value of their homes, by the enactment and enforcement of covenants and restrictions which are the rules that the community has agreed to abide by. Additionally, the HOA board is responsible for the assessment and collection of HOA fees, which are used to pay for the maintenance of the common areas and any other designated areas that are outlined in the covenants and deeds.
Homeowner association dues are usually determined by the amenities available in the community and maintenance of the common areas. Amenities include such things as a gated entrance, clubhouse, community pool, tennis court, children’s playground, etc. Maintenance of the common areas include lakes, ponds, right of ways, medians, exterior painting, parking areas, sidewalks, streetlights (in communities that include private streets), and roofs. In some communities, group rates are negotiated for trash pickup, cable and internet services. This may be part of your dues. Generally, dues are collected monthly or quarterly in most HOA’s, dues collected annually are less common. Not paying your dues to the HOA can lead to a lien being placed on your property which if not resolved may result in your property being foreclosed.
If you’re wondering whether you can get out of a homeowner’s association membership, you cannot. In Florida, generally, when you purchase a home, condo, townhouse, or villa that is overseen by a homeowner’s association, your membership in the association is automatic. There is no choice involved as the purchase of your property creates a contract with the HOA. The agreement states that you agree to follow the rules and regulations of the HOA as well as pay all of the dues, fees, and any special assessments that may arise.
Communities with homeowner associations contain rules and regulations in documents called covenants and restrictions. You should ask for a copy of the covenants and restrictions for the community before you execute a purchase agreement. Additionally, you can contract your purchase with the contingency that the covenants and restrictions must meet your approval and understanding.
Owners of condominiums are also subject to association fees. In Florida, condominium associations are governed by Florida Statute §718. In Florida, you may cancel your purchase contract through a “cooling off” provision within 7 days for a new condo or 3 days for a resale condo. This provision gives potential condo buyers time to review the condo fees, dues and budget.
Condominium association fees generally pay for maintenance of the grounds and common areas, exterior of the building, insurance, swimming pool, clubhouse, or other amenities. In many instances, the condo fee includes services such as garbage and water.
The best defense a homeowner has against their homeowners’ association is to be informed of your rights and obligations. To learn about your HOA, begin by reading the documents that control the HOA’s power. These include the Bylaws, Declarations of Restrictive Covenants, Articles of Incorporation and any Rules and Regulations. In Florida, HOA’s are governed by Chapter 720 of the Florida Statutes. Although there is no agency that enforces the Florida HOA statutes, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation deals with elections and recalls. This leaves the homeowner with one option and that is to litigate against the HOA, however, before filing a suit, pre-suit mediation must occur.
Homeowners should also be aware that if a new state law is enacted, it cannot be retroactively applied to change the HOA governing documents. Your HOA Bylaws, Declarations of Restrictive Covenants, and Rules are contracts. There are several exceptions to this, first if your governing documents state that they are “subject to Florida Statute Chapter 720 as amended from time to time,” or Florida Statute Chapter 617 and or 607, in the event that the association was created before Florida Statute Chapter 720 was enacted. Obtaining a copy of the Florida law at the time that the HOA documents were recorded can be found at the county courthouse where the property is located.