HOAs in Planned Communities – Hate ’em or Love ’em

Oyster Creek from air

Who establishes the Homeowners Association?

Planned Communities come with  HOAs and Rules and Regulations. Approximately 10 million Floridians live in 50,000 HOA communities, and the Sunshine State comes in second (after California) regarding the number of HOA communities. More and more new developments have become HOA communities. Some HOA communities have stringent rules, the majority has very decent “down-to-earth HOAs,” and some are pretty easygoing. However, pet, truck, and architectural control rules are the culprits in many quarrels.

The question is: Who creates and enforces all those rules and regulations in a planned community?  A “planned community” is precisely what the name says – somebody planned it. Therefore, many homeowner associations will already begin life under the management of the real estate developer with a vision when he buys the land. That is the earliest it can be because it was a vacant, undeveloped strip of land before that, and nobody, except the zoning department,  cared about anything. So, the developer sets the rules and has already formed the statutory framework for the future Homeowners Association when the builder starts building and selling the new homes.

Planned Communities are deed-restricted

Builders and many homeowners also love deed-restricted communities because they protect the property’s value better, making homes in those communities more attractive to future buyers. At a certain point in the future, every buyer will be a seller, and the home is often part of the retirement planning. However, there are two sides of a coin. Deed restrictions, also known as restrictive covenants, will affect the use and enjoyment of the property to a certain degree. That is why some homebuyers feel constricted and avoid buying into a planned community. Everybody has a different pain threshold when it comes to restrictions.

The Developer implements already the Framework for the Rules and Regulations

Of course, the rules can be stricter or more general depending on the developer’s community vision. The HOA may “fine-tune” the rules later when they are in command. Usually, the rules are acceptable and make common sense, but sometimes, some HOAs should be more moderate. However, the board of an HOA consists of elected homeowners, who are fellow neighbors, and they are people who tend to have different opinions about self-governing.

The Takeover from the Developer is a Process

As mentioned, the developer starts the process, but what follows next? According to Florida Statute 720, there is a transition phase where the developer hands over control of the future HOA of the development’s homeowners. During the initial stages. he provides the HOA himself, and he already has the rules and regulations in place and enforces them (more or less strictly). Once 50% of the community is in control of private homeowners, at least one member of that group will join the Developer’s HOA. According to Florida law, there is a threshold where the developer has to surrender all control to the new owners. Once 90% of the units have been sold, he must transfer the duties of his HOA to the new HOA elected by the homeowners. If the Developer still holds a minimum of 5 %, he may keep at least one member on that board.

What are the Rules the Developer put in place?

The following rules are standard. However, the fine print is always the critical part. 

  • Architectural Control
  • Home Maintenance Standards
  • Decoration Restrictions
  • Parking Rules and Guidelines
  • Noise Complaint Policies
  • Pet Rules (Size, Breed, Quantity Limits)
  • Short-Term Rental Restrictions
  • Trash and Recycling Rules

Some Developers employ even more restrictive rules. Condo HOAs tend to be more stringent because the owners live closer together. There might be better ideas than having your neighbor next door playing saxophone at midnight. That might be fine in a single-family home community where the buildings are 10 feet apart and surrounded by lush vegetation. 

Are the Rules and Regulations legal?

Yes, they are. A HOA is a private entity and has the right to decide what is permitted and what is not. For example, the parking rules and the pet rules are often controversial. Can HOAs prohibit pick-up trucks? Pick-up trucks are not on the endangered list. You don’t need to have one in the driveway. Every homeowner knew it when he bought the place. Are the rules and regulations binding?

Can HOAs prohibit Pit Bulls or German Shepherd Dogs?

Of course, they can. Whoever buys a home in a HOA community should carefully read the rules and regulations. If it says no – it is no. Florida Law also covers the rule.  Some dog breeds are dangerous if not handled professionally. Unfortunately, in many cases, the owner is the problem, not the dog, but that doesn’t change anything.

What about service dogs, working dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support animals?

We will cover that topic in a separate blog. Some homebuyers try to sneak their furbaby in by declaring it a “special” dog. It may work in some cases, but success is not guaranteed. Too many dog owners have tried to take that route; therefore, that trick is not a secret anymore,

Can a Homeowner dispute those rules and regulations?

He can always try, but all those rules implemented by HOAs in Florida have been used for many decades and are more or less bulletproof. Very few rules did not pass the smell test in the past. For example, the “clothesline rule” is one of them. What happened? Many communities did not permit using clothing lines for drying clothes outside.  But not permitting any clothesline outside is one step too far, especially if the line is not visible from the street. Florida law explicitly allows Florida residents to use “solar collectors, clotheslines, or other energy-saving devices based on renewable resources” and prohibits HOAs from banning them. They can stipulate that they are not visible from the street, but they can not ban them entirely.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.