Homeowners associations, condo associations and other community governing boards have a bad reputation. Television and movies often portray members and officers of HOAs as power-hungry, entitled tyrants who patrol the streets with clipboards and yardsticks to measure the height of each resident’s lawn. A fraction of an inch too high and the homeowner receives a warning and a fine.
However, this is seldom the case. In most Florida communities, the residents themselves comprise the HOA because they care and want to protect their property values. If you own property in a planned community, you may appreciate the rules that keep your neighborhood neat and quiet. However, the developer also has much at risk, and the covenants, conditions and restrictions are one way for developers to maintain some control over their significant investment. Unfortunately, both sides may face costly disputes when residents object to the rules or their enforcement.
When can I sue?
Your home is likely one of your biggest investments, and if you live in a planned community, you may have spent a substantial amount of money on that home. If you knew from the start that your community had a governing HOA, you probably had the chance to review the CC&Rs before signing any paperwork. By signing, you agreed to paying your dues on time and complying with rules regarding the interior and exterior appearance and use of your property. You may not have understood the following:
- The rules in the CC&R are legally binding.
- You may have sacrificed some of the rights and preferences that typically accompany homeownership.
- Your HOA may reserve the right to fine you without warning if you fail to comply with the rules.
- You may notice that your HOA officers do not apply those rules consistently among your neighbors.
- Failing to pay your dues, fines or other HOA obligations on time may result in the HOA foreclosing on your home even if the delinquent amount is relatively small.
- Some developers may cut corners to save money on common amenities and infrastructure, which may leave you and other residents footing the bill for major repairs.
These and other issues are not uncommon among planned communities with HOAs. If you spent a considerable amount of money on a home in a neighborhood that promised tranquility and privacy, you may be looking for answers about how to hold your HOA accountable for the costly issues you are facing. An attorney with a history of success in all aspects of real estate litigation may prove a valuable advocate.