By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA / Published November 2019
There are things in life that matter. That is, they are important. Some things in life you should pay particular attention to, whether it is in your personal life or business.
Oops, where did that come from? Why does knowing what type community you live in matter?
It matters because in Florida there are more than 47,000 deed-restricted communities with 9,600,000 million people living in them, and you will likely live in one, too. Knowing you purchased a unit, home,
or lot in a deed-restricted community matters because you have now become contractually obligated with all the other owners in the community. You have now become part of a multi-million-dollar corporation in which you have rights and obligations.
While living in a community association has many benefits and suits millions of Floridians, it may not be for you. Before you buy, be sure to check out the specific rights, obligations, and restrictions that are going to personally affect you. These can be found in what is called the governing documents; that is, the declaration, proprietary lease, articles of incorporation, bylaws, and rules and regulations. These governing documents can be found in the public records at the courthouse in each respective county. The seller or your realtor should make them available to you, so be sure to ask. Some communities have an architectural review board from which you may be required to receive permission before you do anything to your unit or home.
For instance, it may matter if you like flying all types of flags from your home. You may be restricted to flying only the United States flag, a Florida flag, and a military flag. In a condominium community, you can only fly one military flag on certain days of the year.
Another issue that might matter to you is parking. Most communities have very limited parking, so if you are a family of four and everyone has a car, be sure to know if your cars are required to be parked inside the garage with the garage door down.
Money matters. Be sure to understand your financial obligations. You will be required to pay your share of the operational expenses of the community, such as insurance, lawn maintenance, utilities, salaries, legal fees, pool service, road maintenance, exterior painting, roofing, and more. The board of directors will do its best to charge only what is needed, but should an unanticipated expense occur during the year, you could be required to chip in a significant lump sum.
Management matters. Community association boards have three choices with regards to management:
The way the community is managed may matter to you. If there is no professional management, that means the board of directors and volunteers are responsible for and involved in the daily maintenance and operations of the community. That means you should consider taking your turn as a volunteer or board member. It also could mean inconsistencies in oversight of maintenance and slower response time to water leaks or roof issues. With volunteer management, there are no salaries or management contract expenses added to the budget.
If there is part-time management or management that is off site, the same could be true. The off-site manager will rely heavily on volunteers to be her eyes and ears to let her know that a service provider showed up, did the expected work, and can be paid. With part-time management, there will be management expenses added to the budget for which owners pay.
The community may have a manager who is an employee. The community may also have maintenance and office staff who are employees. This type of management will add salary and administrative expenses to the budget for which owners pay.
Amenities matter. Some communities have no amenities; others have dozens of them. Whether you use the amenities or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that you will pay for the maintenance and upkeep of them. Just because you don’t swim and don’t own a bathing suit doesn’t mean you can deduct the pool maintenance amount from your assessment payment. Waiver of use is no excuse.
The ability to rent your home may matter. Some communities do not allow any rentals at all. Others may be very restricted in limiting the rental term or limiting the number of times within a given period in which you may rent, or by not allowing new owners to rent their units/homes for the first two years (to cut down on investors purchasing units/homes). But then again, some communities have no rental restrictions at all.
Then there is the issue of family pets! They matter. Other than ADA service animals and FHA comfort animals, your community could be a “no pet” community or restrict the breed, weight, height, or number of pets per household. The ADA and the FHA regulations compete with and are often contrary to our community pet restrictions, a dilemma that likely needs clarification of federal regulations. Updated federal regulations could then become a model for our state laws with regards to service and comfort animals.
Some communities require background checks, certain credit ratings, and personal interviews before approval will be given for you to purchase in that community. If that matters to you, check it out before you “go shopping” in that community.
The governing documents of the community can give you answers to the issues that matter most to you. Do your homework before you shop.
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 at the same time 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. For more information, contact Betsy@FloridaCAMSchools.com, (352) 326-8365, or www.FloridaCAMSchools.com.