In Florida, where many retirees settle, homeowners associations create lots of controversy. Some prefer to have the groups. Others abhor them. Much of the split opinion centers on the rules that Florida's homeowners associations enact and enforce. Therefore, anyone thinking of buying a home in Florida needs to know the ins and outs of Florida homeowners association rules.
Homeowners associations, commonly known as HOAs, have existed in Florida for decades. On Oct. 1, 1995, the Florida Legislature passed a law requiring HOAs to incorporate. On June 30, 2009, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signed Senate Bill 2080, which allows HOA members to cover their lawns with native grasses without fear of retribution from HOA boards, which often set restrictions on grass species. The move is designed to help Florida residents conserve water.
Homeowners associations consist of an elected board and members. The association represents the interests of residents. The board, chosen by members through election, enacts and amends governing documents that include rules, known as covenants and restrictions. These rules are designed to maintain the character of a neighborhood and protect homeowners against drops in home values.
Associations also assess and collect fees from homeowners to pay for the maintenance costs of common areas such as meeting halls, golf courses, private roads and gated neighborhood entrance ways.
The Florida Legislature spells out general rules regarding HOAs in Chapter 720 of Title XL of the Florida Statutes. The key ingredient is a requirement that HOA members comply with covenants and restrictions. The statutes allow HOAs to ban members from use of common areas and levy fines as a result of violations. Failure to pay dues can result in a property lien and, after 90 days, suspension of HOA voting rights.
Florida law limits HOA rules. They cannot impose a ban on display of the U.S. flag. Also, they cannot impose a fine exceeding $100 per day, or a total of $1,000, unless specifically allowed in the HOA's governing documents. A fine or suspension cannot be imposed without giving the offending homeowner 14 days' notice and an opportunity for a hearing before a committee of three association members.
Commonly, HOAs place restrictions on fences, basketball hoops, playground equipment and the storage of vehicles and boats. In some cases, it imposes bans. In most homeowners associations, an architectural review committee must approve any proposed changes to homes. These include the color used to paint a home, whether it is OK to add a screened patio and whether a swimming pool or landscaping is allowed. The committee primarily ensures that the planned changes fall within the HOA's restrictions.
protect the residents of communities and provide solidarity for issues beyond the neighborhood. Each member is provided a sounding board often not available through city and county government, and the HOA provides for the enforcement of rules that larger government entities often cannot address. Some HOAs also provide greater purchasing power by negotiating neighborhood-wide rates for cable TV and other services.
Prospective home buyers must use caution when looking at homes in an HOA-controlled area. Some HOAs are extremely restrictive and enforce rules that surprise many members. Also, HOAs are notorious for escalating disputes with community members to the courtroom. A May 19, 2005, story in the St. Petersburg Times told the story of Nina Maurer, a resident in the Timber Pines Community Association of Spring Hill. The HOA filed suit against her for allowing her grandson to reside with her. The HOA's restrictions included a requirement that no one under 18 live in the community. According to an Aug. 15, 2009, story in the Times, another Florida resident was embroiled in a costly lawsuit with his HOA because he parked his truck in the driveway rather than in the garage. According to the story, long and sometimes trivial disputes with HOAs fill Florida's court dockets.
- Photo Credit Heather Elias
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