Q: I just moved from a condominium (where I served on the board) to a homeowners association. I found out that our board does not follow the statutes (FS 720). I know that as of October, new laws went into effect. I tried to inform the board that we needed to register the association with the state because that was a change to the law this year. Can you provide the section in the new law?
Answer: This is a major change to homeowner associations, and all boards should take note! Chapter FS 720.301(9) requires homeowners associations to register with the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes by Nov. 22. An association that is required to register with the Division must be a Florida corporation responsible for the operation of a community or a mobile home subdivision in which the voting membership is made up of parcel owners, membership is a mandatory condition of parcel ownership and the association is authorized to impose assessments that, if unpaid, may become a lien on the parcel. The board of each association must register at: www.myfloridalicense .com/dbpr/hoa.html. Information that must be provided includes: legal name of the homeowners association, federal employer identification number, mailing and physical addresses of the association, total number of parcels, and total amount of revenues and expenses from the association’s annual budget. The Web page explains the needed information, so the board doesn’t have to seek advice from the association attorney, but I strongly suggest that the board seek legal advice. Members of the association should inform the board of this change.
Q: You often state there is no state agency to protect the residents of homeowners associations. Why isn’t there one and what can we do to start the process of getting one created to protect our interests?
G.M., Port Saint Lucie
Answer: I will give you my opinion in one word: money. The state has decided that problems for homeowners associations can be answered in court and the parties would have to pay the legal expenses. A judge should be able to solve complaints with a court order. Therefore the expense of solving a dispute or violation would be at the expense of the two parties and not the state. However, if you read FS 720.311 Dispute Resolution, you will find a process of arbitration that is an alternative. The Legislature finds that alternative dispute resolution has made progress in reducing court dockets and trials and in offering a more efficient, cost-effective option to litigation. However, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Over the years, condominiums were required to file with the state each year, but there hasn’t been any formal list of homeowners associations. This year associations do need to register with the state. Homeowners association is a broad term for any association that has the power to lien for nonpayments of required fees that do not fall under FS 718 or FS 719. This will create a whole new world and could allow more requirements for association disputes.
Richard White is a licensed community association manager. He does not offer legal opinions; any other questions and comments concerning association operations can be sent to Richard White, 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., No. 201, Winter Haven FL 33884-4115; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.