There is a fine line between wanting to uphold the value of property in a neighborhood and intruding on property owners' rights. Homeowner responsibilities, however, stem from those rights. Homeowners associations (HOAs) in Florida are set up to manage homeowner rights and responsibilities so that the community can be enjoyed by everyone, but that's not what always happens. Disputes often arise between property owners and the homeowners' association and can become litigious if not handled properly.
At Florida Consumer Lawyers, our HOA attorney in Florida is familiar with the complexities around HOAs and homeowners. We can help HOAs make sure their association is established properly and well-designed policies are put into place to avoid common disputes. We work with your interests in mind and use our resources strategically. Contact us today at (813) 282-9330 to schedule a free consultation.
HOA and Condominium Legal Services in Florida
An HOA is a non-profit organization established with the general mission to protect and improve property values for those people living within a community. It does this by enforcing a set of rules and bylaws and is funded by payments from the residents of the community. It typically has a board of directors that oversees its activities.
There are many advantages to having an HOA as they provide necessary services to the community. These services include:
- The maintenance of common areas, including pools, gardens, and the community clubhouse
- Landscaping for common areas
- Providing social activities which allow members of the community to get to know one another
- Resolving disputes between property owners
Depending on the needs of a particular community, there may be more services offered by the HOA.
Prevent Lawsuits: Proactively Address Common HOA Issues in Florida
Disputes between HOAs and homeowners can become litigious. Proactively addressing common HOA issues in Florida can help avoid or reduce lawsuits. Here are some of the most common reasons a lawsuit between a homeowner and HOA may arise.
Failure to Upkeep Common Areas
It is typically the responsibility of the HOA to provide the maintenance needed for any common areas in the community. When they fail to do so, these areas become unkempt and distract from the overall aesthetic of the neighborhood. Property values may even begin to decline. Homeowners become upset and they often sue. This scenario is frequently seen when a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, destroys part of a property, such as a roof of a clubhouse, that the HOA may ultimately be responsible for replacing or repairing.
Denial of Homeowner Applications
HOAs typically have a process for homeowners to apply to make changes to their property. When the HOA does not approve of those changes, homeowners become upset and they may sue.
HOAs can become the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit when a resident is injured on property that the HOA is responsible for maintaining. For example, if a resident trips and falls on broken tiles in the clubhouse, and the HOA was aware of the broken tiles but failed to take action to repair them, the HOA may be held responsible for the damages incurred by the resident.
Disputes over pets are another common cause of litigation. For example, some HOAs limit the number of pets a homeowner may have living with them, and owners have been known to sue to increase that number. There are other ways pets cause disputes, from pets being aggressive towards the pets of other owners to pets running free throughout the community.
Violation of Rules Disagreement
Homeowners are required to abide by the rules and bylaws set by the HOA. When they fail to do so, they may be charged monetary fines. Homeowners may disagree with these fines and file litigation to dispute the assessment.
Alternatives to HOA Litigation in Florida
No matter the outcome, litigation is never a pleasant experience for either party. To be able to resolve a disagreement without having to go through litigation, the parties may go through alternative dispute resolution (ADR). A knowledgeable real estate attorney in Florida will be able to guide you through ADR.
There are different forms of ADR available in most jurisdictions. The first is mediation, which is a less formal type of ADR. Parties meet with their counsel and they do their best to come to an agreement that both sides are able to consent to. It is a method of negotiation where the parties have control of the outcome.
Another form of ADR, arbitration, is more formal than mediation. An arbitrator, or a panel of arbitrators, acts as a judge and decides the outcome of the hearing. The decision reached by the arbitrator is binding.
Why Homeowners' Associations in Florida need an HOA Attorney
An HOA attorney can relieve an HOA's board of directors of a lot of responsibility and stress. An HOA attorney is able to:
- Ensure the HOA is compliant with local, state, and federal laws and regulations, thus preventing litigation
- Prepare and amend the rules and bylaws the HOA is required to follow
- Resolve disputes and, when the need arises, represent the HOA in alternative dispute resolution and court proceedings
- Draft, review, and/or modify HOA contracts and other governing documents
- Handle matters related to appointing board members
- Enforce property restrictions, like sending HOA violation notices, implementing and collecting special assessments, responding to HOA dispute letters, collecting unpaid assessments, pursuing HOA eviction actions, and foreclosing on HOA liens
Differences of opinion between the board of directors often lead to questions and the need for guidance. Perhaps one of the best reasons to have an HOA attorney is because they will be there for you whenever you need clarification on what direction the HOA should move in.
Contact an HOA Attorney in Florida Today
At Florida Consumer Lawyers, our HOA lawyers provide strong advocacy for our community members. If you have questions about HOA law in Florida, we can help you. Contact us today by filling out the online form or calling us at (813) 282-9330 to schedule a free consultation.