Is There A Government Agency With Authority Over HOA Activities?
There is. Actually they govern the condominium associations or the HOAs but the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is kind of the state authority where HOAs are regulated to a point but there is not mandatory arbitration like there is with condominium association and mandatory mediation, so you are not sending things to Tallahassee to be arbitrated so you don’t have those decisions and those regulations that you can kind of go off on there. There are other certain complaints that you can make through a condominium association that, if you are an HOA, they will tend to disregard. So from the state level, you have that. If you consider the Florida Statutes, the governing body, it’s not a body of persons or departments but it’s a body of laws and those certainly apply and as I said, there are some federal regulations that apply in the local counties, city regulations that may apply when you are talking about permitting things of that nature when you are constructing buildings.
So those also could be considered authority as well or Governmental agencies that would come into play with associations. But an association that takes HOAs under its wing, the closest you are going to get is the Department of Business and Regulations.
How Can An Owner Change Or Challenge An HOA or Condo Association Decision?
Once a decision has been made by either a group of the members, which happens sometimes. More often, it’s a board of directors’ vote that a member is unhappy with. Once that takes place, there really is not an appeal process that is typically delineated within the governing documents of an association. I see that rarely but typically it doesn’t say that if you lose round 1, then you can appeal because who are you going to appeal to? The same board of directors? So really, that type of a public right where you can do that and go in-house within the association. So what you do is, if you live in an HOA, if you are smart, you hire a lawyer to look at it but regardless, if you are a member or a member’s lawyer, you have to see and look if the dispute comes under the alternative dispute resolution statue that says that you have to do pre-suit mediation for an HOA before you can file suit.
The two parties agree on a third party to try and to broker a settlement for the dispute and if it fails then either side can go ahead and file suit on the matter. In condominium associations, you kind of have the same thing, you have to look at the alternative dispute resolution section and see if arbitration, mandatory arbitration kicks in. If it’s the kind of dispute that kicks in mandatory arbitration, then you have to do that before you can file suit. Typically that’s non-binding and the losing party has so many days to file in court before that decision becomes binding and if you fail to file within so many days, then the arbitrator’s decision does become final. So those are really the ways before you get into court and then you have litigation as a sort of appeal in HOA or other condo’s decisions.
So if you’ve gone through the mediation and gone through the arbitration and a member is not satisfied and still thinks that they have a good case and they want to spend the time, the effort and the money, then they can go ahead and litigate the matter and then, it depends on, the monetary factor, whether or not you are going to file in circuit court. If there is an issue which would kick it up into circuit court regardless of the monetary amount, when you end up in circuit court and ultimately you end up going to trial on a case. Those are kind of the ways that you would actually get a decision by the board or the by the members that in turn, the other less likely to succeed but much easier is to see if the governing body, either the members or the board of directors who made the decision would go back at some point and revisit it and you could lobby the board, lobby the members to try and to get them to vote on a different decision as long as it doesn’t conflict with the statutes or the governing documents. Those are your legal rights that you can challenge the decision of an association.
Can The HOA Or Condo Association Stop Me From Using My Yard Space The Way I Want To?
Sure. It all depends on what the governing documents say. A lot of times, there are rules and regulations which don’t take member votes but take board votes. So the board of directors are the ones who make the rules and the regulations and they are going to say you can’t have a trampoline, they are going to say that if you want to put up a swing set, it has to be a wooden swing set, not a metal swing set because we are on CRS. They have architectural review committees that will decide what type of fencing you can have, if you can have a fence at all.
So those issues come up all the time within yard space so just because you own the property just like you will own your house and may not be able to paint it whatever color you want or may not be able to modify the façade of the house because there are rules and regulations of the architectural review guidelines or the declaration of covenants saying that we want things to be uniform, that’s why we live in this community and so we are only going to allow very small variances if any variances at all. That extends to the yard, it can extend to the landscaping. So it depends on what the documents say but the typical answer is there are regulations in regard to any use or change in the landscaping of your yard.
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