By: Hannah Rullo | Ansbacher Law
Congratulations on your search for a new home! When exploring your options before purchasing real estate in Florida, you will likely see properties located within communities known as homeowners’ associations. The perfect landscaping and happily curated homes in these communities may attract you to buy – but, is living in a homeowners’ association right for you? Below are three things you should know before moving into a homeowners’ association:
- There Are Certain Rules You Will Be Required to Follow. If you are the type of person who likes to keep chickens on your property or paint your house purple, living in a homeowners’ association may not be for you. By purchasing property in a homeowners’ association, you are promising to follow a set of rules that apply only to the owners in that community. While each community has different rules, most prohibit specific paint colors, dog breeds, weeds in the grass, and dirty driveways. If you break the community rules, you may be fined. Nonpayment of the fine could eventually result in the homeowners’ association filing a lien against your property. The rules also commonly restrict improvements you can make to your own property. So if you want to install a flagpole, you will most likely have to get approval from the homeowners’ association before doing so. Even if you think a rule is pointless, you will be required to follow it.
- You Have to Pay to Live There. The community pool house and perfect landscaping do not pay for themselves. Nearly all homeowners’ associations collect fees from owners, which are referred to as “assessments.” Owners share the cost of upkeep, repair, and improvements to the community amenities. Typically, assessments are collected yearly or quarterly. The price of an assessment depends on the individual community, but you can find out the price by asking the homeowners’ association directly. Owners may also be subject to paying an additional fee called a “special assessment” for unexpected costs incurred by their homeowners’ association, like rebuilding the community clubhouse after it is damaged by a hurricane. However, most homeowners’ associations require majority approval by the owners before charging a special assessment for non-essential repairs or high-priced new amenities.
- Your Neighbors Govern You. Homeowners’ associations are run by a Board of Directors, often referred to as “the Board.” Usually, the Board is made up of other owners in the community. These owners volunteer their time to assist with keeping the community running and addressing owner concerns. The Board conducts all of the business in the homeowners’ association, including enforcing the rules and paying the bills. Having your neighbors on the Board ensures the community has a voice, but also may lead to an awkward situation if you break the rules or do not pay your assessments. Homeowners’ associations promote the concept of community to the point of enforcement. So, if you are a person who prefers privacy and would like to be left alone, living in a homeowners’ association may not be for you.
When deciding whether living in a homeowners’ association is right for you, keep the above three things in mind. Before buying a home subject to homeowners’ association, make sure you read a copy of the community rules. If you are not provided with the rules, check your county’s official public records for a copy. The rules are often called the “Declaration of Covenants” and are accessible to the public free of charge on your county’s website. You can also obtain a copy from the association directors or manager by making a request under the Homeowners’ Association Act.
If you’d like more information regarding homeowners’ associations, contact Ansbacher Law at (904) 737-4600 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author. Hannah Rullo an attorney at Ansbacher Law. Attorney Rullo assists condominium and homeowner associations with matters, such as covenant and restrictions, bylaw enforcement, the transition from developer control, amending declaration, reviewing contracts, and more. Ms. Rullo works from our St. Augustine office, but is available to assist clients throughout Florida.