As much as homeowner associations (HOA) have been said to help home owners in creating a better living community, they have also been accused of being irrelevant in enacting some rules, penalties and fines.
As a homeowner, the number one weapon for you in dealing with your homeowners’ associations is to be educated about the various rights, responsibilities, and laws to uphold when living in a certain community. This way, it is harder for a HOA to take advantage of you.
Read Your Governing Documents To Understand HOA In Florida
Firstly, you must ensure that you read your governing documents to the last letter. These include Declarations of Restrictive Covenants, Bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, and also any rules and regulations your HOA requires you to adhere to. You should also learn about the Florida Statutes Chapter 720 that governs all the HOA’s in Florida.
Although the laws to govern the HOA’s exist, there is no enforcement agency to ensure they are implemented. The only solution is elections and recalls by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. For you as a home owner, your only alternative is litigation, and it requires a pre-suit mediation before filing a lawsuit.
Incorporating The New Florida Laws
Your governing documents are your contract and are not subject to change by new state laws retroactively. However, if the documents state that they are subject to Fla. Stat. Ch. 720, as amended from time to time’ or your HOA was formed prior to Ch. 720 being enacted, then the new state laws can be applied.
Therefore, you should make a point of getting a copy of the law enacted at the time the documents were recorded from your law library at the local courthouse. However, you should also be aware that this does not mean all new laws are not effective against a HOA; those that are procedural in nature will most likely apply.
A member who is denied access to official records by the HOA is entitled to actual damages or minimum damages for the association’s willful failure to comply with the subsection on HOA’s Inspection and Copying of Records. The minimum damages are set to be $50 per day for 10 days. The calculation begins on the 11th business day after the receipt of the written request.
Governing Rules That Affect Your Home
HOA’s have various guidelines that determine how homes and amenities under their management are run. For example, they can determine what colors you will have to paint your house. Most HOA’s in Florida require that there be some uniformity in the painting, but all have different settings which you ought to learn.
The governing board can change some simple rules such as the pool operation hours very quickly. It is often advisable that you understand first-hand what you are getting into, when moving to a new area, before you get into regrettable situations later-on.
A certain home owner in Florida, for example, was fined by her HOA for taking too long to paint her home, and this fine could ultimately turn to lien under Florida law. This is despite her claim that the fault was with her painters, who took too long to finish the paint job.
Losing Your Home For Breaking Rules & Fines
It is also possible that you can lose your home to your association. It almost sounds unreal, but it can happen. If your association fines you, maybe you didn’t even know that what you did could lead to a fine, and you don’t pay, the HOA has a legal right to take your house.
In the end it is very important you understand the rules and regulations of your home owners association, especially when you are about to embark on big house projects that could to absurd fines on your part.