Knowing what to look for in the governing documents of condo and homeowners’ associations can save you a lot of grief. Buyers often move into homes in community associations without full awareness of the rules and regulations that govern their use of the property. I’ve seen closings on units where buyers don’t realize that they can’t have a dog or that only one vehicle per unit is allowed. As a result the property management company end up being the bad guys more often than not, when all they do is educate the buyers on what they bought. This is why it’s incumbent upon buyers and sellers to get as much information as possible about life in a community or condo association.
A community association is a non-profit corporation established to preserve property values in a development. The term includes homeowners’ associations, condominium associations, property owners’ associations and cooperative associations.
A community association is governed by a board of directors consisting of homeowners who are elected by their fellow residence and who volunteer their time to set policies. Some associations hire an outside management company to handle the day to day job of running the association (collecting monthly assessments, handling maintenance of common areas, notifying homeowners of rule violations, etc). Smaller associations may rely on volunteers to handle such tasks.
It’s a thankless job and because of that there are ample opportunities for opportunist to take advantage of the fact that there are hardly any checks and balances procedures in place to stave off those with poor character and judgment. (Boards of directors- some times self appointed to self serve-kickbacks run rampant). Look into the association-members of the board. Just by asking a few residents and looking at the upkeep of the property you’ll be able to get a good idea of how well or poorly things are being managed.
Pets – Some prohibit pets outright; others allow pets of a certain size or type.
Rentals – This is a common issue in Florida, as many buyers – particularly those buying into resort areas- want to retain the right to rent out their units.
Vehicles – Some restrict the amount of cars and type. For those who own commercial vehicles, RV, boats and trailers, you might want to get answers to very specific questions regarding this matter.
Most associations have updated their documents to allow residents to maintain home offices in certain situations. Generally, home offices are allowed when permitted under local zoning codes and one that generates no traffic or noise.
Many buyers are unaware that there are strict limitations on their right to alter the exterior of a unit or home in a community association. Must get association approval before any changes are undertaken. This includes painting, additions and even landscaping changes.
Note: A property management company is hired by the association board members (Community homeowners). The property management company while very well intended, is at the mercy of the board of directors. So a good property management company can guide the members of the board as to proper ways of running the organization, but they can’t make them (board members) do what they are supposed to do. Also, if there is a one man board, or one where there is a board but the president is pretty much on his or her own, it makes for a perfect setting of corruption and mismanagement. If your situation is the latter, get involved pronto!
Richard Recuset is a REALTOR®, with RE/MAX Horizon Realty. Team leader, Short Sale/foreclosure specialist, Listing Marketing Specialist, Certified Internet Professional, Resort & Second Home Property Specialist(RSPS), and an Accredited Commercial Professional (ACP), serving the City of Doral, Fl., and surrounding areas.
When you hire The Recuset team for your real estate needs, you not only get highly qualified professionals on your side, but also access to information, markets, technology and a team of experts from around the world.
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Richard Recuset could be reached at 786-471-5228, Richard@teamDoral.com, 8300 NW 53 ST, Doral, Fl 33166 (Downtown Doral)
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*Nothing in this article is intended to solicit listings currently under contract with another broker. This article offers no legal or tax advise and is for information purposes only.