What is the purpose of a homeowners association? Contrary to what some think, it is not to make your lives in suburbia miserable by measuring your grass height or making sure your house is not purple with pink trim. Homeowner associations are put in place by property developers, usually at the direction of a municipality (local government), to promote, market and sell a particular parcel of land. The developer incurs all of the cost of infrastructure placement (roads, sidewalks, drainage) with the municipality only responsible for maintenance once the developer has completed the project*. In Florida, associations are put in place to have a method of maintaining and repairing storm water retention or detention areas that serve that collection of homes. If there are additional amenities such as pools, buildings or playgrounds, the association then has the responsibility for maintaining those as well.
Membership is the homeowners association is mandatory. When you purchase your home you become a member of a deed restricted community, which is exactly as it says-there are restrictions to the ownership of your home. At your real estate closing, you should receive a copy of the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. This document lays out specifically what you can and cannot do with your home and property. By keeping your home properly maintained and in good condition, keeping your lawn mowed and not parking boats, RVs and broken down vehicles in your driveway you can usually avoid the ire of the association’s board of directors or manager.
Maintaining the storm water retention areas and amenities comes at a cost. Each owner must pay a share (as outlined in the Declaration of CCR’s) of the maintenance cost. Most of the time in homeowner associations, this is shared equally with each homeowner. The Board of Directors is charged with developing a budget each year to determine these assessments. If your community is still controlled by the developer, the developer will determine the budget with the shortfall being funded by the development company.
Once the developer has sold all of his lots and built a majority of the homes he schedules a turnover meeting so that the homeowners may elect their own Board of Directors to oversee and manage your community. These Board members are homeowners and will oversee the financial concerns and compliance with the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions of your community. In our next blog installment, we will dive a little deeper into how to effectively govern your community.
* If your community has private roads maintained by the association, the cost of maintaining the infrastructure-roads, drainage and sidewalks, usually rests with the association. For specifics of your association, refer to your Articles of Incorporation, Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, and By-Laws.