New member-friendly HOA requirements

Dealing with Homeowner Associations

Article Courtesy of The Charlotte Sun

By Steve Reilly

Published June 21, 2013

A new state law outlines new requirements in how property and homeowner associations conduct themselves. Selected highlights of the new legislation:

  • Records
    Records have to be made available for inspection within 45 miles or within the county. An association can make records available to a parcel owner electronically via the Internet or by allowing the records to be viewed in electronic format on a computer screen and printed upon request.
    The association must permit a member to take photographic images of such records with a camera or other electronic device at no charge.
    Charges of more than $20 per hour for personnel fees and charges at an hourly rate for vendor or employee time to cover administrative costs to the vendor or association.
    Associations may only charge up to 25 cents per page for copies made If copies are made by an outside duplicating service vendor or association management company personnel, the association may charge the actual cost of copying, which is supported by the vendor invoice.

  • Reserve accounts
    An association's budget is required to designate how reserve accounts may be used.

  • Officers and Directors
    HOA board members are now required to certify in writing to the secretary of the association that they have read the association's declaration of covenants, articles of incorporation, bylaws, any and all current written rules and policies.
    Requirements for contracts with companies where a director has a financial interest; comply with state law regarding conflicts of interest and disallows any financial or other compensation to an association's officers, directors, or managers.
    The association can remove a director or officer charged with a felony theft or embezzlement offense involving the association's funds or property from office.
    Associations are required to maintain insurance or fidelity bond for all persons who control or disburse funds of the association.

  • Amendment of governing documents
    Thirty days after recording an amendment to the governing documents of an association copies of the amendment will be provided to the members.

  • Registering requirement
    Associations will report to the Florida Division of Business and Professional Regulation by Nov. 22, 2013, and provide detailed information about the association.

  • Developer-controlled HOAs
    Association members, other than the developer, can elect at least one board member after 50 percent of all parcels are owned by its members.
    A developer is prohibited from unilaterally making amendments to the governing documents that are deemed arbitrary, capricious or in bad faith, destroy the general plan of development or affects the rights of existing non-developer members to use and enjoy the benefits of common property. Developers cannot shift economic burdens from themselves to the non-developer association members.
    If a developer goes bankrupt, then the association's control is turned over to the property and homeowners.

When it comes to homeowner associations, Kim Jakubaitis, like the lyrics from a Joni Mitchell song, has seen property owner associations from "both sides now."

In 2004, Jakubaitis filed a complaint with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation about irregularities in Deep Creek Section 20 Property Owners Association's 2004 election, when she first ran for a board seat. Only after winning her legal battle was Jakubaitis seated on the board.

But for the past four years, Jakubaitis now serves the association as its licensed managers.

The HOA Reform Bill, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott on June 14, may have saved the consternation and obstructions that Jakubaitis and others have faced in the past coming up against their deed restricted associations.

Among the reforms, the new regulations allow property owners easier access to information from their associations.

"It's not going to be a huge deal," Jakubaitis said, referring to the Deep Creek Section 20's present policies that allow property owners easy access to its records. However, she conceded that wasn't the case with property associations dealing with the association in 2004.

Rotunda West Association manager Jay Lyons also sees nothing onerous with the new law. He said: "It brings (property owner and homeowner associations) more in line with condominium associations."

Let's have one set of rules for all associations," Lyons said.

Lyons described the RWA as an association that keeps its records open to its members with few exemptions.

One aspect of the bill, he said, could actually save the RWA money since it will have no longer have to go through the expense of notifying property owners and go through the machinations of elections when board seats are uncontested.

Gil Guy, a founding member of Rally for Rotunda, said, " I'm very happy it was signed. It will help all members of HOAs to be in a better position than they have in the past. '

The statewide Cyber Citizens for Justice at, a watchdog group for residents in condo and homeowner associations, celebrated the new law.

"This is a very good start, said Cyber Citizens founder Jan Bergemann. He called the bill a first in what he hopes is "multi-year legislation."

No one really knows exactly how many deed-restricted homeowner associations exist in Florida. According to Bergemann, estimates suggest that 1,6 to 2,5 million homes in associations may be operating throughout the state. No one knows for sure, which is why having associations register with the state is important, he said.

Bergemann said he's visited Charlotte County twice and spoken to big crowds of people who wanted to see homeowner association reform.

And like others, Bergemann sees the new legislation as bringing homeowner associations more in step with condominium regulations.