In Florida, many homes are located in communities controlled by homeowners’ associations “HOAs”. While HOAs offer many benefits to its residents, many owners, especially those who have never lived in an HOA before, are surprised by how HOAs are governed.
Florida HOAs are governed by Florida HOA laws and their own governing documents. Laws pertaining to Florida HOAs can be found in Section 720, Florida Statutes.
Where can I find out about an HOA’s particular rules?
Before purchasing a home located in an HOA, you should request a copy of the Association’s governing documents. The governing documents include:
- The declaration of covenants
- The by-laws
- The articles of incorporation
- And the rules and regulations.
When you purchase a home in a homeowners’ association, you agree to follow these governing documents, which outline what you can and can’t do with your property. Sometimes the governing documents will prohibit parking certain types of vehicles in your driveway, or what type of window treatment you have inside your home!
What happens if I violate the HOA rules?
If you violate the governing documents, you can face fines, loss of use rights and even legal consequences. In some extreme cases, violating the governing documents can permit the homeowners’ association to foreclose on your home. Therefore, it is very important that you are aware of the Association’s restrictions so you can determine if they are reasonable.
We also recommend that you search your Florida county’s public official records before buying your home. For example, official records for Pinellas County, Florida can be found here. If you can’t find your HOA on the county website, you may need to visit the official records for your county. The official records will advise you of liens and foreclosure actions the HOA has initiated. If the HOA has a record of liens and foreclosures, this may be a red flag. Knowing ahead of time how litigious an HOA might be can save you thousands of dollars and months or years of heartache.
HOAs are expensive, can I find out how they spend those dues?
Finally, you will want to know the Association’s finances. You will be responsible for paying dues, and it is important to understand what exactly these dues cover. Some HOAs provide home maintenance, lawn care and community services to its residents, which is part of the reason they are so attractive to Florida residents. Knowing how your dues are spent before you close on your home will help you decide whether the dues are reasonable. If they make frequent special assessments or are otherwise trying to raise money, you may want to steer clear.
This is a blog post for information purposes. If you think your HOA has gone too far (or maybe not far enough) contact us today for your free consultation.
Written by Lea Tottle, Esq.
Edited by Patrick D. Quarles, Esq.