Homeowner Associations (HOAs) in Florida must comply with Federal and State laws, and local (city or county, etc) ordinances and regulations. These laws and regulations apply, as appropriate, to all common interest communities. These include HOAs, condominium associations, mobile home communities, cooperatives, etc. One of the common problems associated with HOAs is staying up to date with all of the requirements, and operating according to the particular standards these rules and regulations demand. In this article we will suggest 9 Florida HOA guidelines to follow to help keep things hassle free.
- Know the laws and local requirements which specifically apply to your HOA. Some are obvious and include, for example: Federal Fair Housing laws and Americans With Disabilities Act, and Fair Debt Collection Practices. Some are less obvious, so it pays to know the HOA's responsibilities and authority.
- Know the local ordinances which apply, even though they are not specific to an HOA. Storm water run-off, elevator inspections in condo buildings, and swimming pool operation and safety standards, animal control, etc.
- A good way to keep up to date on legal requirements, conflicts between regulations, and to be sure volunteers and paid staff act in compliance, is to enroll them on courses run on behalf of DBPR (Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation) or FREC (Florida Real Estate Commission).
- Retain a law firm with specific experience and competence in advising your kind of HOA. Arrange with them to be proactive in keeping your board members, staff and volunteers up to date.
- Check other legal regulations that may come out of case law. The recent Florida Supreme Court's decision on Bartram Versus U.S. Bank is a case in point. That decision may affect so-called "zombie mortgages" and, therefore, impact Association reserves.
- Ensure that the HOA manager is suitably-licensed. Their knowledge and competence is the rudder which directs all activities. Problems are minimized when the office is led by the right person.
- Keep good lines of communication with the property owners. Not only will this encourage general understanding and may reduce complaints and conflict, but it may also increase the number of volunteer staff, to make the workload lighter for all.
- Review the HOA covenants and by-laws to ensure new resolutions do not conflict with accepted standards of operation for both property owners and management.
- Make sure the signature page on the covenants that new owners sign, includes a comment to the effect that the owner has had time to read the documents, has actually read them, and will comply with them. This small addition to the paperwork minimizes violations, and conflicts which, again, helps to keep down unnecessary time and effort by management staff.
We hope these guidelines will help your Association to run smoothly.