While driving around in Florida you often see pristine homes, well-manicured yards that could rival many nurseries, or tall beautiful buildings with views that make you feel like you are at a resort. Many of these neighborhoods are truly idyllic, it’s almost like living in a dream. You sometimes think to yourself, do people really live here? Although dream worthy, these places are a reality. They are often Homeowners and Condominium Association properties.
What Is A Homeowners Association And Condominium Association?
A Homeowners’ Association (“HOA”), as defined by Florida Statute 720.301(9), is a Florida Corporation responsible for the operation of a community or a mobile home subdivision in which the voting membership is made up of parcel owners or their agents, and in which membership is a mandatory condition of parcel ownership. A Condominium Association (“COA”) is, as defined by Fla. Stat 718.03(2), any entity which operates or maintains other real property in which unit owners have use rights, where membership in the entity is composed exclusively of unit owners or their elected or appointed representatives and is a required condition of unit ownership. Simply put, an HOA and a COA are membership organizations run by the community and for the betterment of the community. They are a group of people that elect some of their fellow neighbors to help the neighborhood comply with Florida law and their own set of governing documents.
What Laws and Documents Govern an HOA and COA?
When an individual accepts title to a property within an HOA or COA they automatically become a member and are bound by Florida Statutes and the governing documents of that community. Chapter 720, Florida Statutes manage HOAs and Chapter 718, Florida Statutes are the laws that manage COAs. These laws help with the creation of the community, the development of its governing documents, enforcement of the governing documents and the protection of the rights of members.
Although the statutes regulate a great deal for the HOA and COA communities, it is the governing documents that oversee the day to day aspects of these neighborhoods. Each set of governing documents are enforced by its members through their elected representatives. Governing documents for an HOA or COA are contractually binding between the association and the members. They usually consist of Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (“Declaration”), Rules and Regulations, Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws.
The Declaration typically encompasses the rights and responsibilities of the HOA and COA to its members. It also contains information on how to maintain and make changes to the properties and common areas, how to set and collect the assessments, and more. Rules and Regulations often detail how the Declaration is interpreted and implemented. The Articles of Incorporation usually contain the information regarding the HOA and COA purpose, agents, directors and location. Finally, the Bylaws includes the necessary information for procedures for voting, term limits for board members, quorum requirements, amendments and other technical material.
How Does COVID Affect the HOA and COA?
The strength of an HOA or COA is the involvement of its membership. They community gets together via in person meetings to vote on necessary actions such as budgets, changes to the governing documents, alterations to common areas, etc. Getting together with your neighbors and talking things out was the way things were done. The novel COVID 19 pandemic has now created an issue with something that was once second nature.
With the introduction of COVID 19 the world had to change just to function day to day, including the HOA and the COA. These communities now have to find a way to conduct necessary business while also staying safe. The communities that did not have provisions in their governing documents to help adjust to the “COVID lifestyle” looked to the Florida Statutes for assistance. Florida Statute 617.0721(3) allows for not-for-profit corporations, such as the HOA and COA, to have virtual meetings with its members. Florida Statutes 718.128 and 720.317 authorize condominium and homeowners associations to conduct elections and other necessary voting through an online system. While many communities have made the successful transition to the virtual platform to avoid the risk of the novel virus, some communities were not ready. The lack of technology or understanding of how to involve the HOA and COA members virtually has caused some issues. Now that society has encountered such a unique circumstance, many communities are now realizing that they always need to be prepared for the worst going forward.
The HOA and COA were created to represent the best interests of the community and its residents through the implementation of its governing documents. In the HOA and COA communities your voice matters and the success of the neighborhood counts on the same. Therefore, if you live in an HOA or COA get involved and let your voice be heard.