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. A key aspect of the operation of any HOA or COA is its governing documents, or the documents which control the administration and daily activities of an Association.
As a member of an Association, it’s very important for you to have reviewed and understood the governing documents of your Association and what rules those documents obligate you to follow. Typically, the “governing documents” of the community include the declaration of covenants, the articles of incorporation, the bylaws, and the rules and regulations. Some Associations may have more documents or policies, such as a landscaping policy or an Architectural Review Committee or Board policy.
The declaration is much like your Association’s “constitution” and sets forth the basic covenants and restrictions for the community. If you are looking at investing or renovating the home, make sure to review this document. For example, covenants include the obligation to pay assessments on time and be a member of the association. The requirement that your lot can only be used as a single family home, or can only be rented for certain minimum periods are examples of restrictions which may be found in your Declaration. These are just a couple of examples of restrictions which may be found in your declaration and affect you.
The articles of incorporation establish the Association’s existence, basic structure, and governance.
The bylaws govern the overall operation of the Association. Bylaws will typically address the composition of the Board, how meetings are called, how voting procedures work, and numerous other corporate procedures.
The rules and regulations usually act as a supplement to the covenants contained in the declaration, and typically address everyday matters, such as parking or use of the community’s recreational facilities.
Each governing document is subject to their own amendatory procedure. Typically, amending the declaration or bylaws requires some form of an owner vote, whereas rules or regulations can be most often amended by the Board without an owner or member vote being necessary or required. Neither Chapter 718 or 720 of the Florida Statutes contains any requirement for owners to approve or vote on rules and regulations, assuming rulemaking authority has already been granted to the board.
However, this does not mean that owners have no say in the rules and regulations their Board chooses to implement. Association members have the ability to attend board meetings where they can share their opinions and raise any concerns regarding any agenda items the board plans to vote on, including rules and regulations. To learn more about amending HOA/COA documents, check out our blog on Amending HOA Documents and the Unlicensed Practice of Law here.
A good example of this is having a few backyard chickens. As this practice has risen in popularity, Associations are working through the complexities of having a small chicken coop on their property. When your city or county approves backyard chicken coops, your Association may not allow it.
As we previously stated, it’s very important for you to have reviewed and understood the governing documents of your Association and what rules those documents obligate you to follow. When you purchase property located within the jurisdiction of an Association, you become a member of that Association and are thus required to follow the Association’s rules and restrictions set out in the Association’s governing documents.
If you were starting a new job, you would want to become familiar with your new job’s standard operating procedures or general rules for doing the job to ensure that you know what guidelines you need to follow in order to be successful. The same logic can be applied to your HOA or COA-you want to be familiar with the rules to ensure that you and your home are in compliance with the Association’s governing documents. Otherwise, if your home falls outside of compliance, and you do not correct the violation in a timely manner, you could be subject to fines and other penalties, which the Association would likely be within their legal right to enforce as laid out in their governing documents and Florida Statutes Chapter 718/720.
Nowadays, many HOAs or COAs have their own website which contains their governing documents for their residents to easily download and review. Or, you can request a copy of the Association’s official records by making a records request, which we will discuss in greater detail in our next blog.
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.