We all want good neighbors. When you come home you want to feel safe and completely at ease in your space and in your neighborhood or building. For this reason, and with all the HOAs and community associations in Florida, lawmakers gave associations the ability to choose potential tenants thoughtfully. An association may deny a potential buyer or renter if they fail to meet certain criteria established in the association bylaws.
In Florida, as opposed to many other states, HOAs and condo associations have a good amount of say in approving potential buyers and renters. Florida laws guarantee these rights to associations, but The Fair Housing Act still applies in regard to race, religion, age, etc.
Many of the discriminating factors in buyer approval tend to be around a past criminal history that presents a safety concern, not adhering to an association’s bylaws or approval process or having a record of prior rule violations in previous associations. A board can make the judgment call if a would-be tenant does not seem like a good fit, but the reasoning must adhere to Florida law and be outlined in the bylaws.
Here’s the really big important part. You MUST have your screening process completely disclosed in your governing documents. And to make certain that this screening process and/or background check is legal, it is highly recommended that you seek a certified community law attorney to assist you with your governing documents.
If you deny someone, you need to have proper documentation explaining your reasons for rejection. This is crucial because with this denial you could be faced with a discrimination lawsuit. Documentation will make all the difference if such a situation happens.
How do you screen potential buyers or renters?
First, an association needs to define the major dos and don’ts of the community, as well as what constitutes a safe, respectful community. With guidelines like these, it is easier to clearly designate who will or will not make a good neighbor.
Interviewing new neighbors could be as simple as setting up a screening process with a committee. In this process, one person needs to write down all the answers to the potential buyers’ questions. When this interview is finished, you must have the buyer sign a document that confirms all of their responses were true.
You could even hire a screening agency to ensure all the required documentation is squared away. This is your best bet to guarantee all laws are adhered to and to protect yourself from any potential lawsuit.
To accept or deny any potential renter or owner is within the rights of an association in Florida. To avoid any issues or legal trouble, it is in your community’s best interest to contact a lawyer for legal counsel. At Dania Fernandez and Associates we pride ourselves on serving our clients with respect and dignity. Contact us today if you need legal advice.