Begun as a way to preserve property values in neighborhoods and subdivisions, homeowner's associations (HOAs) have caused controversy and lawsuits in Florida for years. Recent legislation has forced HOAs to become more responsive to their members, requiring them to register with the state, which makes them easier to regulate. Homeowner's associations aren't always the enemy of neighborhood residents, though. While the worst of them have been widely discussed in the press, most do their job well by making sure residents enjoy a pleasant place to live without stress between neighbors.
How Homeowner's Association in Florida Works
The main idea behind an HOA is that all the residents in a community will band together to vote for volunteer members to sit on a board of directors. These directors oversee issues that come up in the community. Their main job is to create and enforce rules that will help to protect the value of the homes in the community. The board is also responsible for collecting homeowner's association fees, which they then apply to maintain community common areas used by all the residents in the community. Membership in the HOA is mandatory for everyone purchasing a home in the community; in Florida, membership is automatic for every resident of the neighborhood.
Restrictions on Florida Homeowner's Associations
All HOAs in the state of Florida are governed by the laws in the Chapter 720 Florida Statutes. They have to register online with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which is an agency specifically designed to oversee businesses in the state of Florida, before taking any action in their community.
HOA Voting Rules in Florida
The annual election for board members is most likely the biggest voting event for Florida homeowner's association members. The voting process required is described in Chapter 718 or 719, Florida Statutes, and Rule 61B-23.0021 or 61B-75.005 of the Florida Administrative Code. Board vacancies can be filled only by electing a new member, and the election has to be held during the HOA's annual meeting.
According to the law, HOAs must hold a general meeting, including an election, every year at the same time. Florida law prohibits proxy voting; board members must be elected by the use of either written ballots or voting machines. If a member cannot be present during the annual meeting, he can vote by mail using an envelope containing his vote housed inside another envelope addressed to the association. The inner envelope should be left blank to allow the member's vote to remain secret.
What Can a Florida HOA Regulate?
Homeowner's associations have a lot of freedom when it comes to regulating their members' behavior. Some of the more common rules regarding homes in their community include:
- Rules about the color, style and material of the homeowner's fence
- Regulations about portable basketball hoops, basketball nets on garages and backyard swing sets and playground equipment
- Parking regulations, including rules about street parking and overnight parking for guests
- Extensive rules about home exteriors, including paint and roof color, swimming pools and screened patios
- Pet restrictions including the breed of dog, size of pets and number of pets, as well as strict rules about cleaning up pet waste
Generally, if it affects the aesthetic value of the neighborhood, a homeowner's association has the right to make a rule about it.