Thinking about buying a condo and living the good life in the sunshine state? Chances are high that you’ll be joining a condo association. Florida continues to lead the country in the most HOAs and condo associations in the country. If you’re new to Florida or new to the condo association life there are a few things you needs to know, specifically when it comes to the bylaws.
In this blog we’ll give you an overview of what you need to know about condo association bylaws, their legal basis and the enforcement of these rules and regulations.
Read the fine print
Buying a home is a major process, to say the least. You have so much paperwork, contracts and legal mumbo jumbo to sort through, on top of all the other stress and negotiations that it can be easy just to just sign on the line and move on. But you MUST spend time getting to know your condo association’s byways, also known as covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs), before closing on your condo.
The bylaws could impact you in many ways. There could be pet regulations, maintenance standards, rental regulations, architectural guidelines, noise requirements, and on and on that you may or may not agree with but you will have to follow. DO NOT gloss over the bylaws. Read them thoroughly and understand the impact that these rules may have on your lifestyle and your condo investment. If you are unsure about the language or unclear about any of the CC&Rs make sure you address your questions to the condo board. We also offer a number of free resources to help you understand community law in Florida.
Follow the rules
It cannot be overstressed that you are obligated to follow the condo association guidelines. Once you purchase that condo you will be required to join the condo association and will be legally bound to follow all rules and regulations in the CC&Rs. If your condo building has an association you are required to join. There is no opting out of the association.
The Florida Homeowners’ Association Act and the Florida Condominium Act form the legal basis that gives condo associations the ability to create rules and enforce them. As long as bylaws fall within the legal realms of these acts they are enforceable by state law.
How bylaws are enforced
While we do want to reiterate that those CC&Rs are legally binding, this is not meant to scare you out of joining an association. Many people love being part of an association with the community it creates and the amenities they get to enjoy. As long as you can abide by all the rules and regulations, you could be overjoyed with your association. But what happens when you break the rules?
Well, to put it succinctly, there can be consequences to not abiding by CC&Rs. It generally starts with a fee or fine. Again, if you are imposed with a fine, you are obligated by law to pay it. Failure to pay fines or association dues can lead to a lien placed on your home and if the situation is not rectified it can actually lead to foreclosure. That’s right, a condo association can have the legal right to foreclose on your home.
Foreclosure is an extreme scenario and it’s the absolute last step in dispute settlement. Legal disputes within the community must go through a process resolution, which involves internal dispute resolution (IDR), then mediation, then arbitration. Only if these steps have not worked does the matter finally end with litigation.
To wrap up, the rules and regulations of condo associations are meant to foster community, keep the value of your home and ensure that all communal spaces and amenities are taken care of.
Most people find the CC&Rs to be reasonable and oftentimes preferable to non-association living. But if the rules conflict with your lifestyle or the plans that you have for your condo, you’ll want to make sure you know before you make a legal agreement. Because (have we said it enough?) you are legally bound to all CC&Rs once you join the association.
We know all this talk of legal obligation can sound intimidating but the laws in place are meant to protect both the association and the individual homeowners. As long as you are walking into your association well-versed in the CC&Rs and with eyes open you should find that the condo association life is a wonderful thing!