Homeowner’s Associations (HOA) exist for a variety of reasons, but primarily, they help to ensure that all property owners in the designated area of the HOA are doing what they can in an effort to retain property appearance and value. In turn, homeowners may receive some support for their property or community from the HOA itself, such as organization of events, the upkeep of landscaping, and management of facilities like communal swimming pools or parking lots. This means each member of an HOA agrees to pay monthly fees in order to receive this support and reap the benefits of those facilities.
As can happen with any scenario that involves property ownership, sets of rules, and monetary exchanges, differences in opinions and preferences can cause disputes to arise. If you’re a member of your HOA Board and are experiencing any such dispute, an experienced HOA lawyer is the right person to turn to in order to make sure the members of your community are contributing to and abiding by all the rules they agreed to when they purchased their home.
How HOAs Legally Work
An HOA is a group that’s created and incorporated by the developer of the homes and/or condominiums in your neighborhood in order to set forth the rules of membership and property ownership for your community. The association is formed by filing specific documents in the public records of the state and county in which the community is located. The details of each HOA are set forth on record, making them binding in many ways. In fact, there has been a recent increase in the government’s role in helping to create and manage HOAs, pointing to the growing recognition of the usefulness of such organizations.
Once the home development is complete and enough of the homes are sold, ownership and management of the HOA often transfers to select members of the community itself, in the form of a Board of Directors. Most HOAs are managed through this chosen Board of Directors, and that Board is expected to make decisions based on state laws, local bylaws, and the organizational rules originally set forth by the group. For that reason, this group is entrusted with the management of the community and the decisions associated with that management.
If your HOA has been formed through all the required manners necessary for an HOA in your area, then the people who plan to purchase a home in your neighborhood should not be able to opt out of belonging to the HOA. In fact, they must sign provided contracts stating that they will keep up with the HOAs rules and dues as long as they own their home. If your HOA has abided by specific real estate laws which mandate that homeowners must be advised of the existence of an HOA, what it provides, and what monthly dues are associated with it before they decide to purchase a home, then your Board is within its rights to have certain expectations of its homeowners.
But try as you might, it can be difficult to create HOAs to be “one size fits all.” There will be residents who are uncooperative, meaning disputes will arise that sometimes need to be dealt with through legal proceedings.
What Kinds of Problems Arise with HOAs?
As property values continue to fluctuate, HOA board members continue to seek out ways to keep the value of the homes in their community as healthy as they can. To achieve that, they impose rules for things like maintenance and appearance of homes, as well as behavior for residents. As long as they are making clear the expectations of their residents, then they, too, should work hard to uphold the amenities that their residents pay for every month. When either side of those agreements is breached, legal issues can arise.
Disputes that advance into the realm of legal action most often relate back to the HOA agreement that was signed by both parties upon the resident’s purchase of their home. When either side feels as though an item in that agreement has been violated, they may take legal action to resolve it.
Some of the most common HOA problems that arise between the Board and residents are:
- Maintenance and repair disputes. For example, if an HOA membership contract has rules about maintaining the outside appearance of a home, but a resident refuses to adhere to it.
- Common area disputes. More often an occurrence in condominium communities, common area disputes can include disruptive or destructive use of common areas by one or more residents that other residents are paying monthly dues for.
- Financial requests. Namely, disputes tend to happen when increases in monthly HOA membership fees are required.
- Lack of communication. Some residents may argue that no sufficient agreement, handbook, or communication was provided to them about costs, changes, or other items relating to the HOA and how it operates, even if this is untrue.
- Changes in legislation. Broader laws and governmental actions can affect all types of communities. Depending on what those changes are, an HOA may have no choice but to implement changes of their own, and these can sometimes cause backlash from community members.
As a member of your HOA board or someone who is responsible for overseeing how your HOA conducts business, you should never feel guilty about taking necessary steps to continue serving and protecting your wider community. As long as your HOA was created legally and has operated morally, you are within your rights to take the steps you need to make sure one resident doesn’t damage the useful system you’ve worked so hard to build and maintain.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
Most often, when an HOA finds a member of their community in violation of the rules and regulations set forth in some way, they will levy a fine against that resident—usually with ample warning, and per an amount laid out in the signed HOA contract. And in many cases, these fines are even delegated by state legislature. But if the HOA’s threats or fines don’t result in the necessary response from the resident, you may take private legal action against said resident under civil law. But you will want to make sure you have a practiced HOA attorney on your side to help.
Homeowners Association lawyers are well-versed specifically in HOA laws and rules, and their mission is to resolve disputes among homeowners, property management companies, and even local government agencies. They work in a specialized area of real estate law that specifically addresses the contractual relationship between HOA and homeowner. The right lawyer can dispute, mediate, or even serve as counsel on your behalf in a court of law.
The Whisler Law firm has partnered with the Law Office of Joseph Pustizzi, PA to bring Florida residents the support they need when it comes to HOA disputes. They have years of experience helping homeowners associations when they need legal counsel for:
- Fee disputes
- Policy violations
- Collection issues
- Contract disputes
- Drafting or review of association documents
- Property care and maintenance issue
If you’re a member of an HOA who is experiencing some kind of dispute related to the rules and regulations of that HOA, know that The Whisler Law Firm is here to help. Call our office at 833-529-5677 or fill out our online consultation form, and we’ll get you connected with the right people at the Law Office of Joseph Pustizzi, PA. We put our trust in what they do, and you can too.