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Considering life under a condominium association

If you are looking at condominiums in Florida, you may be hearing about Condominium Owners' Associations. Perhaps you've heard horror stories, or someone has described the wonderful life under the protection of a COA. In either case, purchasing a condominium unit within a COA-controlled building is nothing to take lightly.

When you are considering purchasing a condominium, the COA should give you a copy of the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. You would be wise to study the document carefully. If there are stipulations by which you absolutely cannot abide, you should probably reconsider purchasing the condominium. The CCR is legally binding, and membership in the COA isn't optional.

Rights and responsibilities under the CCR

The job of the COA is to protect your property value and quality of life. Some ways in which they do this may include:

  • Repairing issues with water infrastructure
  • Maintaining common areas such as pools and community rooms
  • Enforcing rules regarding pets, noise, parking and other issues

Your responsibilities include knowing the restrictions in your CCR and following them. The restrictions listed in this agreement may include anything from the weight of your pet to the furniture, flags or decorations allowed on your balcony. The COA has the right to fine you if you break the rules.

Penalties beyond a fine

Most COAs carefully enforce the payment of association dues. In most cases, falling behind on your dues means the COA places a lien against your unit. Your access to buildings and common areas may be restricted, usually by deactivating your fob or key card. If you don't resolve the debt quickly, the COA has the legal right to foreclose on your unit.

However, the COA has some fiscal responsibility as well. The owners of the condominium you are investigating should allow you to see the financial records of the COA. If the COA does not have adequate reserve funds or insurance, you and your neighbors may be liable for any lawsuits someone may levy against the association or for major repairs the building may need.

Recourse for your grievances

After you make your decision and move in to your new condominium, you likely hope things will go smoothly with the COA. However, you may encounter an issue or situation that cannot be resolved through meetings and discussions. You may feel the board has not followed legal procedure or that your CCR rights were violated.

In this case, you may wish to invite an attorney to step in and negotiate for you. Finding an attorney with years of success in condominium law ensures that your interests will be represented in any grievance proceedings.

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