Homeowner and condominium associations (referred to as “HOA” or “COA”) are generally nonprofit corporate entities designed to maintain common residential areas and have the authority to enforce and establish deed restrictions. Their purpose is to maintain community order and help homes retain their value. The people that own property governed by the association are usually required to join the association asa condition of ownership and become members. In return, the association’s members pay assessments to the association.
The association can assess fines or penalties on members who violate association rules and regulations. The associations rules and regulations can be found in its governing documents (bylaws and declaration of covenants).Associations are governed by an elected board usually consisting of homeowners or those appointed by them to regulate common areas and to enforce its bylaws, covenants, restrictions and other conditions.
An association can place a lien on a home or unit and then foreclose on the lien where the member fails to pay his or her assessments. There are certain requirements that the association must follow before they can file a lawsuit to validly foreclose. These requirements are different depending on whether it is an HOA or COA that is foreclosing. A common misconception about lien foreclosures is that the end result is merely a lien being placed on your home. Unfortunately, that is simply not true. If the association is successful in their lawsuit, your home will be sold at a public auction the same as a home would in a mortgage foreclosure. Additionaly, you could be personally responsible for past due assessments and the court could enter a money judgment against you.
Many associations maintain and provide membership for such recreational pursuits like tennis courts, golf courses, swimming pools, clubhouses, and walking trails that members otherwise would not be able to afford individually. In return, members do have to abide by certain conditions.
An association’s bylaws or its declaration of covenants, define most of the rights of memebers and of the association. These may include regulations regarding pet ownership, noise control, landscaping, parking, and payment of assessments.
Generally, though, homeowners have the right to decorate their homes, alter it, mortgage it, or sell their unit without interference. Florida law also permits an owner to establish an easement, or an agreement, with another person to use or enjoy certain rights of their home for a specific purpose over a specified time.
Florida homeowners’ and condominium associations can provide water, trash removal, insurance, cable television service, and lawn care. In many cases, other fees may be assessed against the members if special projects are initiated, particularly to common areas.
Member of an association in a Florida do have certain rights such as hiring an attorney if there is a dispute with the association or with another member. A common dispute is whether enforcement of a certain rule or regulation is illegal or in conflict with state or local laws or are being applied in an arbitrary, unfair or illegal manner.
Other disputes may arise over a members contention that the association has an obligation to repair certain items like roofs. A real estate lawyer can examine the association’s governing documents to determine if there is language that imposes that obligation and if the circumstances in this case warrant it.
Although an association may act like its own municipal government, it is still a private entity and can impose restrictions on activities that a state or local government body may not. These include restricting the posting of signs so long as the restrictions are uniformly applied to all residents.
For example, an association may not permit any signs on lawns or inside vehicles, although in an election year it may allow them for that year only. Most of these restrictions must be specified in the associations governing documents.
If you have any questions or issues regarding a homeowners association or condominium association, you can get help by contacting the Morey Law Firm, P.A. at (407) 426-7222.