Caveat Emptor!

Caveat Emptor!

By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA / Published March 2024

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Mr. K said, “These increases every year are ridiculous. Don’t you know there are people who can’t afford these dues? They have almost doubled. This makes me sick. Is this going to be the norm from now on?”

     Yes, Mr. K, it is the norm and has always been the norm. The state law expects owners to pay their share of the maintenance and operations of the association. With inflation out of control, construction prices rising, insurance premiums doubling and tripling, new regulations for building inspections and additional reserve funding, and gasoline prices at a nationwide high, the cost of maintaining and operating the association buildings and grounds increases. Hence, the amounts paid by owners increases.

     When purchasers sign their closing documents to purchase a condominium unit, cooperative share, or homeowners’ association parcel or home, they have agreed in advance to pay their share of whatever it takes to operate the association buildings and grounds.

     Purchasers believe and may have been told, “the association takes care of everything.” Where do they think the money comes from to “take care of everything”? It comes from you, the owner, who is required by law to contribute the money that is required to “take care of everything.”

     Prior to purchase, sellers are to provide certain documents and information to the purchaser. The purchaser should do  due diligence and read the information that is provided. By moving into a Florida community association, purchasers are voluntarily “giving up” the right to do certain things to their property such as hanging door decorations or putting out yard art like a bird bath. Ignorance is not going to be an excuse when you receive a violation letter requiring you to remove the door decoration or bird bath.

     Likely, the main point missed by most purchasers is the fact they have signed a blank check agreeing to pay the association “whatever it takes” to pay for the association operation and maintenance expenses.

     Listed below are a few of the documents a purchaser should receive when he or she signs a contract for sale or before closing. These documents will alert the purchaser of his financial responsibilities as well as his promised compliance to other rules and restrictions.

  1. Declaration of Condominium or Declaration of Covenants or Cooperative Prospectus
  2. Cooperative Proprietary Lease
  3. Articles of Incorporation
  4. Bylaws
  5. Rules and Regulations
  6. Certain financial information
  7. “Frequently Asked Questions and Answers” sheet
  8. Condominium or Cooperative Governance form

     The Governance Form provides important general information such as the following:

  • The role of the board in conducting the day-to-day affairs of the association.
  • The board’s responsibility to provide advance notice of board and membership meetings.
  • The rights of owners to attend and speak at board and membership meetings based on certain statutory or board limitations.
  • The responsibility of the board and of owners with respect to maintenance of the property.
  • The responsibility of the board and owners to abide by the documents, statutes, laws, and rules adopted by the Division, and reasonable rules adopted by the board.
  • Owners’ rights to inspect and copy association records and the limitations on such rights.
  • Remedies available to owners with respect to actions by the board, which may be beyond the board’s power and authority.
  • The right of the board to hire a community association manager or management firm subject to its own primary responsibility for such management.
  • The responsibility of owners with regard to payment of regular or special assessments necessary for the operation of the property and the potential consequences of failure to pay such assessments.
  • The voting rights of owners.
  • Rights and obligations of the board in enforcement of restrictions and rules in the documents and rules adopted by the board.
  • With regard to the association finances, in addition to other things, the governance form explains—
  • The board of directors has the authority to levy assessments, including special assessments.
  • The board must prepare an annual budget of the revenues and expenses and hand deliver, electronically transmit, or send a copy to the unit owners at least 14 days prior to the budget meeting.  The budget must include all estimated revenues and expenses and reserves for certain deferred maintenance and capital expenditures projects.

     With regard to the role of the owners, the following applies in general:

  1. Each seller of a condominium unit or cooperative share must provide to the purchaser a copy of this governance form and current copies of the governing documents listed above.
  2. Owners agree to comply with the governing documents, the state laws and regulations, and the rules of the association.
  3. Owners agree to pay their share of the common expenses. Failure to do so may result in liens and foreclosure of their unit or home.
  4. Owners may use the common elements/areas in a manner that will not hinder or infringe on the rights of the other owners.
  5. Condominium and cooperative owners must provide the association access to their units during reasonable hours to maintain, repair, or replace any common elements/areas.
  6. Condominium and cooperative owners may not make any alterations to their units that would adversely affect the safety or soundness of the common elements or any portion of the association or property the association maintains. Owners in homeowner associations may not make any changes or additions to the exterior of their homes or yards without prior written permission of the association.

     Before you sign, purchasers should exercise due diligence and enter into a purchase contract with a full understanding of their rights and responsibilities. Caveat emptor!

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA

Florida CAM Schools

     Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA, guides managers, board members, and service providers in handling daily operations of their communities while dealing with different communication styles, difficult personalities, and conflict. Effective communication and efficient management are her goals. Since 1999 Betsy has educated thousands of managers, directors, and service providers. She is your trainer for life! Betsy is the author of Boardmanship, a columnist in the Florida Community Association Journal, and a former member of the Regulatory Council for Community Association Managers. Subscribe to CAM MattersTM at For more information, contact, call 352-326-8365, or visit