When people buy homes, the most important document they will sign is the purchase agreement, and people typically inspect this agreement closely before signing it. However, there are other documents that warrant just as much inspection if you are buying a home in a homeowners' association.
Before you buy in an HOA, you will want to review numerous documents. These include: HOA bylaws, a declaration of covenants, articles of incorporation and even minutes from recent board meetings. Examining these documents could help you identify any problematic or unlawful clauses.
Florida HOA statutes prohibit certain clauses from appearing in these and other association documents. Some of these clauses include:
- Clauses that prohibit the respectful display of a single, portable United States flag
- Clauses that prohibit or penalize homeowners for implementing Florida-friendly landscaping, which includes measures to conserve water and minimize pollution
- Clauses that give developers too much power or protection in the event of a dispute with an HOA
These clauses can invalidate a document and lead to legal disputes.
Keep in mind that there are other problematic clauses of which homeowners should be aware, even if they are not specifically addressed in state laws. For instance, you should examine closely clauses that seem:
- Discriminatory or harassing
- Overly harsh (e.g. huge fines or aggressive penalties)
- Intrusive (e.g. granting HOA members unlimited access to property)
Clauses like these may not even be lawful, and they are usually unfair to homeowners so it is important to not dismiss them or assume they are standard in HOA documents.
Many homeowners are unfamiliar with HOA documents and do not know what to look for when reviewing them. And between the massive amount of information they might contain and the complexity of the language that some use, it is very easy to get confused and overwhelmed.
To avoid buying a home in an HOA with unfair or unlawful practices, it can be crucial to consult an experienced attorney before signing anything. Speaking with someone who understands and can explain the details of HOA laws can help you feel confident in your home-buying decisions.