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When condominium and homeowners associations make life difficult

Moving into certain Tampa communities often means dealing with some rules. When purchasing a property, it may not seem like the rules would be an issue. For many people that is true, but in certain instances, condominium and homeowners associations make life quite challenging for residents.

For example, flags seem to be a hot topic in many neighborhoods. Even though a veteran in another state didn't follow the rules when it came to displaying an American flag, the HOA in his neighborhood took things too far. The fines seemed to be disproportionate to the infraction, which made life difficult for the man. Eventually, the HOA dropped the issue altogether after the media got involved.

Resolving residential landlord/tenant issues

Not everyone here in Florida owns property. Many people rent apartments, homes and condominiums either because they do not want to or cannot purchase a home. The law recognizes the special relationship between the property owner and the renter in order to resolve residential landlord/tenant issues that may arise.

Most residential leases are not negotiated as heavily as commercial leases, if at all. The property owner usually presents a potential renter with standard lease that creates obligations for each party to adhere to during its term. If a dispute arises between the parties, the lease will be where each of them should look for a resolution. In some cases, it may be that simple, but in others, it is not.

Before joining condominium and homeowners associations

Many of Tampa's neighborhoods and buildings offer amenities that make them more attractive to potential buyers. The catch is that those amenities come with a price -- condominium and homeowners associations. Even if a potential owner agrees to join an association in order to be part of a neighborhood, it does not have to be without first gaining an understanding of what he or she is getting into.

A potential buyer may request copies of the community's bylaws, contracts and CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions). A thorough review of these documents should provide a better understanding of how the community operates and what a homeowner can and cannot do. For instance, homeowners could be restricted to certain colors when painting, renovating or altering their homes.

Demystifying real estate closings

When purchasing a home in the Tampa area, future owners know they will need to go through several steps before they get the keys, but they may not really understand what will happen. Part of that process includes the "closing," which is the last step before ownership. Many people are not sure what real estate closings are all about. Below is a quick overview to help anxious future homeowners demystify the process.

At the closing, the legal transfer of property from the seller to the buyer takes place. For instance, this is where the buyer will sign the mortgage loan note and will receive the final "truth in lending statement," which details the final terms of the mortgage loan. Both the buyer and seller will sign a disclosure statement and any required affidavits. The seller executes the deed transferring ownership to the buyer. The parties may sign other documents as well depending on the circumstances.

Evicting a commercial tenant in Florida

If you are a Florida landlord renting properties to businesses, at some point you are likely to face the necessity of initiating eviction proceedings. Non-payment of rent is one common reason; landlords may also move to evict based on other terms of the lease.

A commercial lease can provide that other actions, in addition to failing to pay rent, can lead to eviction. Although commercial leases are generally not bound by the same strict rules as residential leases, landlords who want to evict must still follow a specific set of procedures. Making a misstep at any stage can delay the eviction and lead to complicated and expensive litigation. Thus, it is best to begin by seeking the help of a qualified attorney in your area.

What costs do buyers and sellers pay at real estate closings?

It would seem as though the sale and purchase of a piece of property should be simple, whether it happens here in Florida or elsewhere. One party, who relinquishes title to the land in question, receives an agreed-upon payment from the other party. However, what actually happens in real estate closings involves both buyers and sellers having to come up with certain amounts of money in order to complete the transaction.

Florida buyers can expect to receive a line item assessment that constitutes around 2 percent to 5 percent of the agreed-to price of the property. Some of the fees that make up this amount include fees for appraisals, tax servicing and bank processing. Other fees include an origination fee, a recording fee and a notary fee. Buyers also pay for title insurance, prepaid insurance and prepaid interest. Other assessments may also be included in the amount they pay at closing.

Eviction: One of many commercial landlord/tenant issues

Leasing space in a building or complex may be a good way for property owners to earn extra money, but it also comes with some challenges. One of the many commercial landlord/tenant issues that may come up here in Tampa is the eviction of a commercial tenant. Property owners need to tread softly in order to avoid violating the law and the rights of their tenants.

When the property owner leased the space to a commercial tenant, it was obviously with the understanding that the rent would be paid on time and in full when due. If a tenant stops making those payments in accordance with the lease, things may become complicated. Simply changing the locks is not generally allowed. Instead, the eviction process must take its course.

It can take a long time to uncover theft by HOA board members

Florida homeowners periodically (usually monthly) give a portion of their hard-earned money to their neighborhoods to pay for certain amenities such as landscaping, swimming pools and more. They expect that the dues they pay go toward these things and not into the pockets of HOA board members. Unfortunately, not every neighbor is trustworthy, and it could take years for homeowners to realize that a homeowners' association board member was stealing money right out from under their noses.

For example, a man was recently charged with a felony, a second-degree grand larceny in another state. He is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from his HOA. It is claimed that when he was a member of the board, he took the liberty of depositing almost $94,000 worth of his neighbors' dues checks into his own account without permission. At the time, his wife and mother also served on the board.

2 aspects of real estate law you may not want to hear

Are you looking to buy a condominium here in Florida that has a condominium association? If so, then you may want to make sure that you understand the real estate law applicable to the community in which you want to make your purchase. Otherwise, you could wind up in an uncomfortable and expensive situation at some point in the future.

If you purchase a unit, you may want to know that the condominium association may fine you for a violation of the rules -- within reason, that is. The association must go through certain steps in order to do so, however. The board cannot simply send you a bill and expect you to pay it right away. You are allowed a certain time to respond and a hearing if you choose. These fines cannot become a lien against your condominium, and the board may simply suspend your privileges to common elements for a time in lieu of a fine or until the matter is resolved.

3 reasons a landlord may keep a security deposit

When you sign a lease and move into a new property—whether it is a commercial space for your business or an apartment you will live in—you will likely pay a security deposit intended to cover any potential damages or expenses that your landlord incurs during your tenancy. Some deposits are nonrefundable, but sometimes landlords even retain deposits that are supposedly refundable. 

This might seem unethical, and in some circumstances, it is. There are certain situations in which a landlord can rightfully keep a refundable security deposit from a tenant, though. The following are three reasons why this might happen to a tenant. 

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