Here are the legal powers and requirements you need to know about for both you and your association
Disputes do arise between homeowners and their HOA or condo associations. Whether arguing over paint color, pet, or fee, it's important to know how far your association can go, and what rights you have as a homeowner in Florida.
While the association does have the right to implement many rules and regulations, it's true that sometimes, board members may try to enforce things that weren't agreed upon or that are unreasonable.
Here's an overview of the legal powers and requirements for both you and those running HOAs and condo associations.
HOA and condo association rights
The powers of the association are listed in the association's governing documents, the Declarations of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). According to the Homeowners Protection Bureau, Florida law “affords substantial deference to an association's declaration and articles of incorporation in interpreting association powers.” Those running the association and the members of the association must follow the CC&Rs carefully, along with the bylaws and other governing documents.
Board members generally have the right to act for the HOA or condo association without a member vote when it comes to the power of the association. However, there are certain issues that the association does not have power over, thanks to the Homeowners' Association Act.
For example, associations cannot restrict residents from displaying flags. Some issues require the approval from a majority of association members, including an amendment of an association's declaration, a member rights suspension, or legal proceedings when the dispute amount is more than $100,000.
There are federal laws that associations in Florida must comply with. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 outlines that associations cannot discriminate against any disabled people in public spaces or elements of the association, and associations must make reasonable accessibility accommodations for those with disabilities.
The Fair Housing Act is also important for those running associations. This legislation prevents an association from discriminating against a homeowner based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability.
Board members and any association officers are required to act in good faith by Florida law and in the best interests of the association and association members.
Rights of association members
If you believe that your association has overstepped, it's important to read the CC&Rs and governing documents that you signed when you purchased your home or condo. These documents outline your rights and what the association can and cannot do.
If your issue is not addressed in the governing documents, or if the association has not followed through on a promise or is acting out of turn, you have certain rights for next steps.
For example, the association most likely has the right to collect special assessments for things like shared association expenses, which could be to help pay for maintenance or to build something new for the community. They also have the right to collect a fine if you fail to pay or are late in paying membership fees.
However, they may be charging you a fine for something out of the ordinary that isn't listed in the CC&Rs and could be beyond their authority. So, make sure that you familiarize yourself with what the association can and cannot fine you for based on the governing documents.
Under Florida law, association members have the right to attend board meetings, and you have the right to speak at the meetings about an issue. So, if you want to request something for the association or bring up a problem, this could be one option to get your voice heard.
The bottom line: the CC&Rs and bylaws exist for a reason. Everyone in the association must follow them, from the board to the association members. The governing documents will always be a first reference point on either end. If a dispute cannot be settled on your own, the next step would be to take the issue to court, but both sides would benefit from avoiding that completely.
If you have questions about your rights as an association member, whether an HOA or a condo association, contact us today at PeytonBolin. Our attorneys are experienced in helping clients with association disputes, whether you're a board member or a resident. Our firm has over 10 years of experience in association law, and we'll help you sift through the complexities of local and federal laws and regulations.