What Is The Role Of A Homeowners’ Association In Florida?
For new Floridians, or for new homeowners in general, the prevalence of homeowners’ associations (HOAs) in Florida can be a bit jarring – approximately 70 percent of dwellings built within the last decade fall under an HOA. Stereotypes abound as to what an HOA can and cannot do, and to what length it has the authority to regulate life in the association itself. Whether you are a new homeowner or a newly elected member of the association board, it is crucial to understand the legal role of the association, so that no one oversteps their bounds.
Governs All Aspects Of The Association
Florida law defines an HOA as a private association of parcel owners and their agents (or a combination thereof), where two main criteria must apply: (1) membership is required for parcel ownership; and (2) the members must allow the association to impose assessments that “may become a lien on the parcel” if unpaid. These two criteria are key: it is not uncommon, for example, to have looser community groups to work toward specific goals, but they lack the powers of an HOA.
While these powers are required, an HOA essentially is a mini-government for its collection of parcels, and exercises many other forms of authority over everything from common elements to delinquent owners. The HOA is restricted by state law and the by-laws drawn up at the association’s launching, but in addition, parcel owners can challenge the board, even filing suit in certain circumstances if it becomes necessary.
Owners Have Options
Because of the extensive breadth of powers that an HOA can exercise, new potential owners can feel a bit intimidated if an issue arises. However, there are powers that are solely in the hands of owners – for example, voting on new members of the board, or amending the by-laws. Any attempt to do these kinds of things without a vote of the membership would almost certainly amount to what is known as a breach of fiduciary duty – essentially, a breach of the promise that board members make to the owners to always act in their best interests.
If you are a parcel owner in an HOA, and a dispute arises, the first thing to do is attempt to discuss it with the board, but if no outcome is reachable, you do generally have the right to file suit. Keep in mind that board members are not generally reachable individually – Florida’s “business judgment rule” shields them from liability – but if you can show that the board as a whole has breached its duty, Florida law generally allows you to try and prove it in court.
Contact A Tampa Homeowners’ Association Attorney
If you own a home in Florida, it is more likely than not that you are living in a HOA, and it may be difficult to understand its powers. If you have questions or concerns about the reach of your HOA, contacting a Tampa homeowners’ association attorney from the Seward Law Office may be the best place to start getting answers. Call our office today at 813-252-6789 to schedule a consultation.