What Are the Nuts and Bolts of Homeowners Associations?
New Disclosure Statute in Effect!
of July 1, 2003, Florida Statute (F.S.) 689.26 is now in effect.
This is a brand new Homeowners Association and Community Disclosure
that must be provided to the potential client prior to executing a
Contract For Sale. This F.S. is to protect you! For more
What is a Homeowners
Association and why do they exist?
Condominiums, cooperatives, planned communities and other forms of
homeowners associations ("HOA") are to allow the owners to
administrate and manage their community. One of the main purposes of
the HOA is to enforce a set of covenants (promises) that bind all
owners. The covenants are usually contained in a document called a
Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions ("CC&Rs"). Many
HOAs include common property, such as pools, greenways and private
roads and in the case of condominiums, usually building structure,
walls, roofs, plumbing, wiring and other aspects of the building.
Individual property owners are required to pay assessments (usually
monthly) to enable the HOA to operate the association and maintain the
Who serves on homeowners associations, what do they oversee and how
are such associations governed?
A board of volunteer owners elected by the remaining owners usually
governs HOAs. The board holds regular meetings to enforce the CC&Rs,
to establish a budget, authorize expenditures, collect assessments,
problem solve, and oversee maintenance of the common property. The
board acts in much the same way as a corporate board of directors.
Many HOAs also utilize committees to help administer the association.
For example, Architectural Control Committees are commonly used to
maintain architectural consistency in the neighborhood.
What kind of legal power do such associations have to enforce their
The main source of legal authority allowing an HOA to enforce its
rules comes from the recorded CC&Rs and Bylaws. Because the documents
are recorded on the county real estate records, the valid provisions
of these documents legally bind homebuyers when they purchase their
homes. Condominium and Planned Community HOAs also have the additional
backing of state law, which clarifies legal authority in many ways.
HOA laws may also provide additional legal authority not contained in
the HOA's documents. Specific state law governs all condominium HOAs
and many subdivision HOAs. HOA actions are usually upheld in court if
the authority is provided in the documents or by statute and the board
acts reasonably in carrying out the authority.
If I buy property in an area governed by a homeowners association,
how will I know the rules? And what is my recourse if I disagree with
The CC&Rs and Bylaws are recorded documents and potential buyers
should obtain a current copy and read them before buying. The CC&Rs
permit the HOA to make rules and regulations governing the conduct of
the members and the use of the common property. The HOA should have
copies of all its current documents available for review, or sometimes
you can get a copy from a title insurance company.
Homeowners that disagree with a rule should address concerns to the
board. Rules can be amended or revoked if they are unreasonable,
unnecessary or simply unwanted by most owners. The amendment or
revocation will likely require a member vote. Voting requirements are
usually found in the documents. If owners disagree with a rule and are
unsuccessful in getting it amended or revoked after following the
proper procedures within the HOA, the owners can always bring a legal
action to declare the rule unenforceable. However, this could become
very expensive, especially if you lose since most HOA documents
require the owner to pay the HOA's attorney fees if the owner loses.
What are some of the common problems faced by HOA boards? Do you
have any suggestions for how such associations might be run more
Rule creation and enforcement are an area of concern. Owners need
adequate notice of any alleged rule violation, including an
opportunity to be heard before any fines are imposed. When owners fail
to pay assessments, the board often struggles on how best to get
payment. When conducting meetings, it is recommended that the board
use a guide like Roberts Rules of Order. This will allow orderly
participation of HOA members and assist the board to reach decisions
on important issues.
It is not uncommon for volunteer board members to have little
experience in running an HOA. For this reason, it is important that
all directors become familiar with the governing documents. While the
documents often outline the steps necessary for proper action, some
situations may require some guidance from someone with more
experience. Many HOAs hire management companies to assist with
administrative duties. Experienced attorneys also provide needed
assistance in interpreting and amending documents, assessment
collection, internal dispute resolution and other complex issues.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, harmony can be sustained by
encouraging open communication and cooperation between owners and the
Where can I get more information about Homeowners
Community Associations Institute (CAI) is a national organization
with many state chapters that specialize in HOA issues. CAI
publications provide a variety of interesting and relevant
information, including tips and guidelines in problem solving. CAI
hosts seminars, vendor fairs, and other activities that provide
valuable education and information.
CID (Common Interest Development) Network provides vast HOA
information including relevant state and federal legislative issues,
service provider directories and discussion groups. CID will soon
premiere a powerful new web homeowner association concept called
Disclosure Line (stay tuned).
Regenesis is the largest homeowner association resource in the
world. Among its pages, are links to all available state HOA statutes,
books, videos, software, sample policies and forms and much more.