Florida Home Owners & Condo Associations
1) All homes built in a planned urban development (PUD), since 1992 have a homeowners association of one kind or another and referred to as HOA’s. Their purpose is to maintain the communal areas and amenities of your neighbourhood such as the entrance way, children’s play area or pool and other facilities.
2) They adopt a set of bylaws that residents should abide by that are in keeping with the deed restrictions of the community. Some owners are elected at a meeting to serve as the board of directors as a volunteer to be involved in overseeing the community. This helps the community to look as good as the day you bought your home there. They liaise with the association’s management company to ensure dues are collected, yearly budgets are set and adhered to and any violators are pursued to ensure compliance. You as an owner should be able to vote in person or by proxy on annual meetings regarding budgets, changes and so forth.
3) Associations have yearly fees that are usually paid monthly and called dues, some neighbourhoods even have two associations. I’ve seen dues as low as $50 per month and as high as $550. Bear in mind, fees are subject to change and are usually assessed on an annual budget. As a homeowner, find out if the association allows you to vote in absentia on how your hard earned money is spent. You will also be voting on who is elected to the board of directors, outstanding dues and their collection.
4) An association should have at least two bank accounts, one used for general operating expenses that includes the likes of light bulbs, gardening, pressure cleaning, pool servicing, community insurance and attorney fees for chasing delinquent owners or non-conforming owners. The second account, typically referred as a reserve account is used for longer term projects such as replacing the roof on buildings, resurfacing the community swimming pool, exterior painting of the buildings, replacing landscaping, replacing roads, security gates etc. If it’s on common ground then there should be an amount you pay every month that goes towards those long-term expenses.
5) Exceptions are often handled by the association levying its membership to cover a shortfall or unforeseen expenditure. For instance, in a condo association, the roof is classed as a communal area and the fund for its renewal might have been set to mature at fifteen years. If it needs replacing after ten years and there’s not enough money in the fund what happens, find out how the association has dealt with such matters in the past. Typically, most boards follow “Robert’s Rules of Order”, in so far as the board of directors meet, a motion is brought before the assembly and is voted upon. You as a homeowner do not have a say in the decision that has been made, even though it can result in an unexpected expense for you.
6) HOA fees are tax deductible if this is an investment property that you rent out. Associations can be a blessing or curse depending on the management style and the board of directors. Some have a lot of restrictions such as deciding what color you can paint your home and your visitors may not be able to park their car outside your home after 6pm. Check your HOA’s rules and regulations as an owner or potential buyer you should be able to have a copy to review.
7) When buying a home to rent out your home for long term rentals or vacation rentals you’ll need to review your association’s by laws in-depth. Some HOA’s prohibit long term or even short term rentals deed restricted community that may not allow pets, street parking or rentals. It’s really in your best interests to check them out before you buy.
8) Some HOA’s allow long term rentals under the provision that the tenants undergo an application with the HOA and that’s in addition to the management company application process which might be similar or quite different depending on what they deem necessary to know about your potential tenant. It can take a week and sometimes even up to a month to respond to the homeowner about their applicant. The fees they charge for this service vary. We’ve seen them as high as $100 per applicant.
9) If the HOA doesn’t approve your prospective tenant they will need to tell you in writing why they didn’t meet the criteria. They can’t divulge sensitive information regarding the applicant unless they have the express permission of the applicant in writing to do so.
10) Some owners feel their own HOA has too much power and the owners have very little control. You have to bear in mind that these rules and regulations were adopted by other homeowners in the community. They only way to change rules is to attend meetings, ask for your topic to be put on the agenda for discussion and get a majority vote of the members present for a possible change.
11) If you have a property management company and would like your HOA to communicate with them via email or phone on any and all alleged violations remember to write to them and add your property management company to their contact list for your home.
12) Ensure your dues/fees are paid in a timely manner and that you always know how to contact your HOA and they have current contact details for you. Florida law allows the HOA to write to your tenants and demand that their rent payments are sent to the HOA and not to your management company or yourself. They can also assess you with legal fees and other fees to cover their collection process. They can also foreclose on your home for non-payment of dues.
I have come across more than a few homeowners who were unaware that they even had an official HOA. No one had ever contacted them. They were under the impression that if they didn’t get a bill then there was nothing owing, right? If you don’t know who your HOA is and how to contact them ask your neighbours or google them. If nothing shows up and you live out of state or overseas, trying contacting your local county office or the State of Florida. All HOA’s have to be registered with the state.
Disclosure : All information at the time of writing is deemed reliable but must not be counted on. Please check with your own HOA and or legal advisor for specific details that pertain to your situation. Here’s a link to the Florida statues on HOA’s. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0720/0720.html
Written by: Anne-Marie McCormack Lic. Broker
McCormack Realty & Renters Choice Homes www.renterschoicehomes.com 407 933 2367
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