Common areas are to be shared
Q: We read a column you wrote that stated "no owner can exclusively use the common areas" and sited Florida Statute 718.107. Does this also apply to homeowner associations? We have buffer areas and conservation areas which some owners are using exclusively.
A: You need to understand there is a title difference between condos and HOAs concerning common areas.
In condos, each owner has title to an undivided interest in the common areas. Homeowner associations own the common areas, not the owners. The common areas are deeded in the name of the association.
Members are required to be a member of the HOA and comply with the documents, rules, and regulations. Ownership is similar but not the same as the title to common areas is totally in the name of the HOA.
FS 720.304 says that all owners have rights to use the common area. It does not say that one owner can fence in or build to exclude others. In so many words, individual HOA owners cannot exclusively use the common areas for their private use the same as condominiums.
Buying spree may be good for community
Q: We are a condominium association, and one owner has purchased his 10th unit. Is there anything we can do to stop him? Is there a limit on how many units a person can own?
A: Unless your documents have a limit on the number of units owned by one person, there is no restriction. While you may think this is a bad situation, keep in mind that such an investor has more to lose if the association is not properly operated and maintained. Like many other communities, delinquent rates are very high due to the economy. He may be a person with deep pockets who can pay the fees to help reduce the delinquent rates.
Take action against delinquent owners
Q: We are a gated community HOA. Included in our fees is basic cable. Can we revoke the cable service for the delinquent accounts? Can we cancel the gate entry codes and force them to use the guard entrance?
A: HOA associations have some rights to deny use of common areas and services for delinquent owners. However, before you tell an owner that they cannot use the common facilities or cable service, I would suggest that you take other action. Make sure that you have sent collection letters and then turn the case over to your attorney. The attorney should file a lien on the property. Once a lien is filed, the attorney can advise what common area services can be withheld. More than likely you can withhold cable but I question if you can restrict entry. Once the lien has been filed, talk with the attorney about starting foreclosure.
Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him at 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., No. 201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115. Please include your name and city.