Can Florida Associations Regulate Exterior Appearance of Homes?
Florida associations have considerable discretion in regulating exterior appearances of structures and improvements as long as the community’s declaration grants authority for the type of regulation contemplated (e.g., location, size, type, or appearance). Fla. Stat. §720.3035(1). This could potentially include anything from exterior color, fences, lawns and artificial turf, parking, and trash-can placement, to restrictions on above-ground pools and solar panels (which are specifically protected in a few states, but not in Florida).
Notably, neither the association nor an architectural review committee can further limit homeowner rights preserved in the declaration or enforce any policy inconsistent with what is set forth in the declaration. Fla. Stat. §720.3035(4) and (5). Unequal or arbitrary enforcement can be asserted by an owner as a defense to an HOA suit to enforce restrictions. White Egret Condo., Inc. v. Franklin, 379 So.2d 346 (Fla. 1979).
Florida associations are expressly prohibited from preventing homeowners from implementing “Florida-friendly landscaping” designed to conserve water resources. Fla. Stat. §720.3075(4)(b).
Voting rights and procedures for members of a community association are extremely important as the right to vote for the Board of Directors and other important issues that affect a member’s ownership and use of his or her property are central to an HOA members fundamental interest. Thus, members of homeowners’ associations should familiarize themselves with the applicable bylaws and rules of the community so that the processes and procedures are known and understood. This knowledge will prepare members to vote on important issues with a clear understanding of the processes involved.
An elected HOA board is tasked with general administration and operation of the association, including enforcement of covenants, restrictions, and rules. When running smoothly, a board serves a valuable purpose in the community, helping to maintain an orderly, peaceful neighborhood. Unfortunately, though, friction between an HOA board and individual members, or even among board members, is not uncommon. And the resulting conflict can lead to litigation and other unpleasantness.
Zoning ordinances and HOA covenants often disallow commercial uses of properties in residential areas. A group home that accepts payments for services provided at the home is almost certainly engaging in commercial activity. But, although the plain language of an ordinance or covenant might appear to prohibit such a group home, federal law forbids state and local governments or HOAs from impeding certain protected uses (more on that later). Importantly, there are different categories of group homes, and the laws protecting each home depend in large part on what kind of home is involved.
While generally homeowners’ associations are provided for the common good of its residents, what happens when it becomes necessary to dissolve an HOA? There are many reasons that it may become necessary to dissolve a homeowners’ association. They could be financial or legal or a combination of the two. This article is designed to provide general guidance as to what processes are required in order to legally dissolve a homeowners’ association in the unfortunate event that such action becomes necessary.
The neatest method of adopting a smoking restriction in an HOA community is to include the smoking policy in the declaration when the association is initially formed. For already-existing associations, though, a new smoking rule will require an amendment to the HOA’s declaration. Typically, this involves approval by member vote, followed by recording of the amended declaration in the county land records. Amendment can require only a simple majority, a super-majority, or even unanimous approval of members – depending on the declaration and state law.
Homeowner’s Associations come with many interesting and different processes for most first time members of an HOA community. An important process members of homeowners’ associations have to deal with is the election of a Board of Directors which can be a member’s first exposure to corporate law. This article is designed to give a general background on how board members in a homeowners’ association are elected and what processes are in place to protect homeowners from problematic board members.