In Florida, it is common for homeowners or condominium owners to live in a community with a Homeowners Association or a Condominium Owners Association, generally referred to as an HOA or a COA, respectively. Associations are commonly found in housing or property developments where people share a common area or amenities, such as:
- Planned or private neighborhoods.
- Gated communities.
- Townhome complexes.
- Apartment buildings.
As a homeowner or condominium owner living in an Association or as an Association board member (or, someone interested in one day becoming a board member), it’s important to have a general understanding of what an HOA or COA does, what an HOA or COA is responsible for, and how an HOA or COA operates.
First, what does an HOA or COA do, and what is the general purpose of an HOA or COA? While each and every HOA or COA is slightly different and may operate in slightly different ways, the overall purpose of any HOA or COA is the same. An HOA or COA is an organization that develops and enforces rules and guidelines for properties and residents living within a subdivision, planned community, or condominium. Generally, an Association is made up of and operated by residents of the community, who are elected by fellow members of the Association. Those who are elected to run an HOA or COA are usually referred to as the HOA or COA’s Board, or “Board of Directors.” When you purchase property located within the jurisdiction of an HOA or COA, you become a member of that Association, and are required to follow the rules and regulations associated with that Association.
An HOA or COA develops and enforces regulations and guidelines for its members, with the ultimate goal and purpose of providing structure to the community, preserve and enhance the community’s property values, and make sure the community is a pleasant and well-maintained place for its residents to live. An HOA or COA may, and commonly does, hire a property manager or property management company to assist in carrying out the everyday operations of the Association. This property manager is typically known as a Community Association Manager, or CAM.
The responsibilities of an HOA or COA may include (but are not limited to) any of the following:
Develop and Enforce Rules and Regulations
- Develop and approve covenants, conditions, rules, and bylaws, as well as amend old rules and regulations when necessary
- Hear complaints from residents and make decisions as to how to handle disputes within the community
- Enforce penalties against residents if they do not comply with the Association’s rules and regulations in the form of fines or legal action
Hold Meetings and Communicate with Members
- Hold meetings for members, hear out concerns of the members, determine voting matters, vote on issues, elect a new Board, etc.
- Hold meetings for the Board of Directors
- Communicate with homeowners, property managers, attorneys, and other personnel
- Planning events or social activities.
Oversee the Finances of the Community
- Set annual and/or monthly budget with input from owners
- Keep and maintain financial records
- Set and collect assessment fees
- Pursue collections against homeowners who do not pay their assessments on time
- Maintain a reserve of funds
- Allocate spending for insurance coverage
Maintain the Neighborhood
- Budget for upkeep and maintenance
- Collect bids from contractors for maintenance
- Schedule and arrange inspections
- Respond to emergencies
Some HOAs or COAs are voluntary, while others are mandatory. Voluntary HOAs/COAs are optional to join, but members can access shared amenities, like a clubhouse, gym, or pool. In most cases, if you don’t join the Association, you don’t get the perks. Mandatory HOAs/COAs are exactly as they sound-mandatory. If you purchase property in a mandatory HOA or COA, you must pay HOA/COA fees and follow the rules and regulations of that Association. When buying new property, you will want to know whether there is an Association, and whether that Association is mandatory or voluntary. Please note that throughout the rest of this blog, we will mainly be referring to mandatory Associations.
The authority of HOAs and COAs to enforce their rules and regulations is rooted in statutory authority by the state of Florida. Chapter 720 of the Florida Statutes empowers and controls the ability of HOAs to enforce their rules, whereas Chapter 718 of the Florida Statutes empowers and controls the ability of COAs to enforce their rules. While Chapters 718 and 720 are similar in many ways, there are some key differences; so if you are looking to learn more about the legal authority that grounds your HOA or COA, make sure that you are looking at the right chapter! While the Florida Statutes empower HOAs and COAs to enforce their rules, the Statutes also restrict HOAs and COAs in several key ways and provide rights to homeowners and condominium owners, such as the right to peacefully assemble, display the U.S. flag, request official Association records, and, in serious cases, the right to recall the Board.
While statutes set the framework for HOAs and COAs, every Association is different. After all, the rules of any community should be set by the community itself, not by politicians in Tallahassee. However, Associations must always adhere to the statutes which govern them.
The attorneys at The Orlando Law Group represent homeowners and condominium owners as well as HOAs and COAs in Orlando, Waterford Lakes, Altamonte Springs, Winter Garden, Lake Nona, St. Cloud, Kissimmee, and throughout central Florida.
If you are a homeowner, condominium owner, or an Association board member, please reach out to our office at 407-512-4394, fill out our online contact form or save this information in case you ever find yourself or a loved one needing to use it. We provide representation and legal services for both homeowners and Associations alike.
If you have questions about anything discussed in this article or other legal matters, give our office a call at 407-512-4394 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. We have an office conveniently located at 12301 Lake Underhill Rd, Suite 213, Orlando, FL 32828, as well as offices in Seminole, Osceola and West Orange counties to assist you.