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Does the Homeowners Association Have Teeth?

A Homeowners Association, also known as an “HOA,” is an interesting creature of statute. When an individual buys a property governed by an HOA they automatically become a member of the association and their property is subject to the restrictions set forth in the Declaration of Covenants. The idea behind living in an HOA is that all property owners will agree to abide by a certain set of rules in order to live harmoniously and ensure that property values remain high. In addition, homeowners will have access, in most instances, to amenities such as pools, golf courses, and tennis courts.  These amenities exist and can be maintained based on the common assessments paid by all homeowners. 

When a homeowner does not pay their assessments they risk having the association place a lien on their property. Once the lien is in place the association can eventually initiate a foreclosure to ensure that all payments are made.  While most individuals understand this process, they are less clear as to what happens when they break rules that are unrelated to the payment of assessments. 
Pursuant to F.S. 720.305, an association may levy a reasonable fine of up to $100.00 per violation against any member for their failure to comply with the rules of an HOA. This means that a fine can be levied when a homeowner parks on their lawn, uses the pool after hours, or paints the home the wrong color. The fine is often levied for each day of a continuing violation up to a sum of $1,000.00. It is important to understand that a fee can also be issued when the violation is from a guest, tenant, or other invitee. In fact, it is not uncommon for a homeowner to end up paying a fine incurred by their tenant for actions they might not have even been aware of.  The HOA may not place a lien on a property unless the amount in question is $1,000.00 or more. Other remedies for the HOA include limiting access to common elements such as the pool, seeking an injunction, or suing the owner for damages to begin collection procedures.
The HOA has plenty of bite to back up its bark. If you are someone who is considering living in a deed restricted community I highly advise that you meet with an attorney prior to entering into any contract. There a many advantages to having an HOA, but a life with rules is not for everyone.

Posted May 4, 2015