The intent of a homeowners’ association is to protect the visual appeal of the neighborhood, protect property values and maintain common spaces. These organizations exist for the purpose of benefitting the property owners who live in the community. To make HOAs work well, property owners have to agree to abide by the terms set forth in the agreements that they likely signed upon moving into the Florida neighborhood.
What your HOA will be able to regulate depends on the specific type of neighborhood it governs and the terms of your covenants. Homeowners sometimes fight back against enforcement of the rules and perceived violations of property rights, which can lead to complex legal disputes. In order to avoid disputes as much as possible, it’s smart to spell out very clearly the rules and expectations of both the homeowners and the HOA.
Things the HOA can regulate
Even in the strictest of communities, there are limits to what an HOA can tell a homeowner about his or her property. When drafting a covenant or dealing with a property owner, it’s important to know where the rights of one party end and the rights of the other begin. Some of the things typically overseen by HOAs include:
- Exterior paint colors
- Type and color of mailboxes
- Whether homeowners can have pets
- Playsets and backyard toolsheds
- Pools, decks and additions to the home
One of the keys to avoiding disputes with homeowners is to be very clear about the restrictions and expectations for residents in the contract. The more thorough these agreements are, the better it will be for both parties. With clear terms, it will also be easier for an HOA to enforce the rules or even take legal action when a homeowner goes against regulations.
Start in the right place
One of the keys to successful HOA-homeowner relationships is to draft documents in the right way. These are important legally binding contracts, and it will serve your organization well to have experienced legal guidance from the very beginning stages of the drafting process.
It may also be useful for an HOA to take the time to review their documents and determine if they need to update anything. This is a smart step for communities that are older and well established, but may have new or changing needs. A simple update may be necessary to protect the authority of the HOA and the rights of the property owners.