HOAs, or homeowner associations, are typical in almost every condominium or townhome community in Florida, but they’re also found in many single-family neighborhoods too. The HOA controls the administration and ruling of a community and is usually made up of volunteer homeowners that form the board.
What Is an HOA?
As the elected board of directors, HOAs act as a governing body that oversees any critical issues or problems that may arise in the community.
When purchasing a home in a new construction subdivision, it is often the developer that is in charge of the homeowners association — at least until the community is 90% percent complete. Once the community is 10% away from selling all available homes, according to Florida law, the developer gives the HOA control over to the residents.
What Does an HOA Do?
The primary responsibilities of an HOA board include representing residents’ best interests, while also protecting the value of their homes. They accomplish this by enacting and enforcing covenants and restrictions that the community has agreed to abide by.
The HOA board is also responsible for the financial assessment and collection of HOA fees. These fees are typically used to finance the maintenance of community common areas.
How Are HOA Fees Decided?
Homeowner association dues are decided by the board and will vary depending on the amenities that are available and how much maintenance is required of the common areas, including landscaping and exterior painting. Typically, the more amenities available to residents, the higher the HOA dues will be.
Most HOAs collect dues either monthly or quarterly. If you do not pay your HOA dues, you may be refused use of your communities amenities or even have a lien placed on your home, which can cause your property to go into foreclosure if you cannot resolve your debt.
Before deciding to purchase a home in a community with an HOA, it is prudent to review the homeowners association budget. As a buyer in Florida, your realtor will present you with an HOA disclosure, which is a document signed by the seller stipulating the HOA dues and schedule. Your agent will be able to walk you through this and ensure you understand everything you need to about the HOA and the community.
What Rules Can Florida HOA’s Set?
Generally, the HOA board of directors’ powers include managing the enforcement of the declaration, as well as the bylaws and covenants. The HOA also negotiates contracts for services and goods in common areas on behalf of all other residents.
As part of their negotiations for services and goods, they also organize the community budget and financial documents. How well a community’s HOA board can negotiate will impact the amount of HOA dues a homeowner will be required to pay.
If a resident is deemed to have violated any of the communities rules, the HOA board of directors will hold proceedings to determine how to best deal with the issue.
Common regulations include rules regarding parking and how many allocated spaces one residence is allowed, exterior home regulations which ensure that the home stays in keeping with the surrounding properties, and pet regulations which can determine anything from how many pets you can own, to which breed of dog you can have.
What Is a Special Assessment?
When a big repair pops up and there’s not enough money in the HOA account to cover it, the board members will ask for a special assessment. This is a one-time fee that every resident pays to cover the repair cost.
Sometimes a special assessment fee can be particularly costly, and can even result in foreclosure of a property if the homeowner cannot afford the special assessment.
If you’re thinking about buying a home in a community with a homeowners association, it’s essential to ask to see what special assessments have been deemed necessary previously. An experienced buyers agent will be able to help you make an informed decision about whether living in an HOA community is right for you.
What are Homeowners Protections Against HOAs?
Understanding your rights and obligations as a homeowner is the best defense against an overzealous HOA. It is imperative that you do your due diligence and read any documents that stipulate the extent of your HOA’s power.
It is important to note that the board of directors must perform all duties in good faith and with the best interest of the community in mind. The directors are also not allowed to make decisions that only serve their interests and not the other members of the community.
In the state of Florida, Chapter 720 of the Florida Statutes governs HOAs and their powers. HOAs have to register with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation before they can legally make any changes to their communities covenants.
If you decide to litigate against your homeowners association, you must first take part in pre-suit mediation.
Making the decision to purchase a home in a community governed by an HOA can be overwhelming, as there is a lot of paperwork to consider. By working with an experienced Clever Partner Agent, you can empower yourself with the knowledge to understand whether the rules of your homeowner's association are reasonable.