Q. I just moved from a condominium where I served on the board of an HOA. I found out that our board does not follow the HOA statutes (FS 720). I know that as of October new laws went into effect. I tried to inform the board that we needed to register the HOA with the state because that was a change to the law. Can you provide the section in the new law?
A. This is a major change to homeowner associations and all HOA boards should take note! Chapter FS 720.301(9) requires homeowners associations (HOA) to register with the Division by Nov. 22. HOAs that are required to register must be a Florida corporation responsible for the operation of a community or a mobile home subdivision in which the voting membership is made up of parcel owners, membership is a mandatory condition of parcel ownership, and in which the association is authorized to impose assessments that, if unpaid, may become a lien on the parcel.
The board of each HOA must register at http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/hoa.html. Information that must be provided is: Legal name of homeowners’ association; federal employer identification number; mailing and physical addresses of the association; total number of parcels, and total amount of revenues and expenses from the association’s annual budget. While the board does not need to seek advice from the association attorney as the webpage explains the needed information, I strongly suggest that it does. Members of the HOA should inform the board of this change.
Q. In reply to questions, you often state there is no state agency to protect the residents of HOAs. Why isn’t there one and what can we do to start the process of getting one created to protect our interests?
G.M., Port Saint Lucie
A. My opinion is money. The state has felt that problems for HOA can be answered in court and the parties would have to pay the legal expenses. A judge should be able to solve complaints with a court order. Therefore, the expense of solving a dispute or violation would be at the expense of the two parties and not the state.
However, if you read FS 720.311 Dispute Resolution you will find a process of arbitration that is an alternative. The Legislature finds that alternative dispute resolution has made progress in reducing court dockets and trials and in offering a more efficient, cost-effective option to litigation.
However, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Over the years condominiums were required to file with the state each year, but there has not been any formal list of homeowner associations (HOA). But this year they do need to register with the state (see first question). HOA is a broad term for any association that has the power to lien for non-payments of required fees that do not fall under FS 718 or FS 719. This will create a whole new world for HOA and could allow more requirements for HOA disputes.
Q. I am currently on an HOA board. If I am reelected in March, do I have to become certified?
A. Yes, if you have not been certified for the previous term. It includes condominiums, HOA, and cooperative board of directors. I am sure that you do not know all the statutes and operational procedures that you will need as a director. Becoming certified will not necessarily teach you everything you need to know, but it will provide you a chance to somewhat learn something new and proper.
The section you are referring to is FS 720.3033(1)(a): “ Within 90 days after being elected or appointed to the board, each director shall certify in writing to the secretary of the association that he or she has read the association’s declaration of covenants, articles of incorporation, bylaws, and current written rules and policies; that he or she will work to uphold such documents and policies to the best of his or her ability; and that he or she will faithfully discharge his or her fiduciary responsibility to the association’s members. Within 90 days after being elected or appointed to the board, in lieu of such written certification, the newly elected or appointed director may submit a certificate of having satisfactorily completed the educational curriculum administered by a division-approved education provider within 1 year before or 90 days after the date of election or appointment.”
It continues that the certification or educational certificate is valid for the uninterrupted term of the director. If a director does not file the written certification or educational certificate in a timely manner, he or she shall be suspended from the board.
How easy is it to say that you have read the documents and statutes? Would you not say that to serve your community you should know the documents that govern your community operations? You have two choices, read the documents and the statutes or take a certification class. My experience has been that in a class you will meet others from different communities and have a chance to meet an instructor with experience. .