All condominium and homeowner associations enjoy the same property rights – that means each owner owns their unit in "fee simple" which is the greatest amount of bundled rights in home ownership. There are still some cases of "leaseholds" with condominiums, especially some of the older ones and this is where the land is not owned in common with the other homeowners but leased and the time period is typically 99 years. So, be sure to check!
So, although associations are referred to as homeowner's associations (HOA), whether condo or a single family home in a master planned subdivision, typically, you'll hear condo association for condominiums and homeowner's associations for all other types of residences located in a "deed restricted" community (where owners are "restricted" in the use of their property). Visit our Gated Communities page for more information.
What are "Docs?"
When you buy a Florida property in a condominium or a HOA subdivision, your purchase will be subject to your review and acceptance of the "docs." What are docs? The "governing documents" of either a condominium or a HOA subdivision tell you how you can "use" your property. The documents fall into three categories: the articles of incorporation (associations are commonly incorporated under the not for profit portion of the state law), the declaration (your property rights), and the by-laws (the day to day operation of the association). Most associations will also have a set of "rules and regulations," which are board actions as to what the residents, guests, or tenants may do.
If you buy a condominium, under Florida law for "new construction," you'll have 15 days to review the governing documents. You should be given a condominium disclosure as part of your offer to purchase that will tell you how long you have to approve the documents, the monthly association fees, and whether or not any of the common elements, e.g., the pool, clubhouse, etc., are leased or owned by the association. Do yourself a favor and use this valuable window of time. You can still write an offer on the purchase but you might "miss" this important fact. Do not waive or sign away your rights to investigate what can and cannot be done in your new community, and consult an attorney if necessary. You don't want to find out too late that you are not allowed a beloved pet, more than 2-3 house guests at a time, a truck or motorcycle, or the ability to rent your unit. These are "common" prohibitions in our area of Southwest Florida.
For "existing, or resale condominium units," the time period is 3 days from the date you receive a copy of the documents. So, again, before you race out and buy your piece of the dream, know what you're getting into and make a sound and wise decision.
Homeowner Association Documents
For homeowner's associations you will own the land even if you are attached to another residence by a common wall and own elements in "common" with the other homeowners, such as a pool or tennis courts. The level of services you receive for the payment of your monthly assessment may vary greatly from association to association. Some may provide lawn maintenance and some may provide reserves for roof replacement. These types of HOA's usually do not provide any type of homeowners insurance for your individual building unit (but they can), so this may be an additional expense you will want to consider when purchasing. Just because homes are connected to one another and share amenities does not always mean that they are a condominium project. That is a "common mistake" when purchasing these types of properties in Southwest Florida. For homeowner' associations you will be given 3 days to review and approve the documents and you should be given this notice at the same time you are given your offer to purchase.
In essence, unless it is new condominium construction, then you'll have 3 days in which to cancel your offer to purchase (once you have received a copy of the documents) without any type of penalty or loss of your earnest money deposit. And, as an aside you should review and question the budget, reserves, and if applicable, any type of special assessments you may be required to pay. By doing your homework and paying attention to these types of details, your Southwest Florida property purchase should be an enjoyable experience.
For more information on this real estate topic, please feel free to contact us directly. Our associates will be more than happy to assist you in answering any and all questions you may have.
Florida Home Buyers Library
Real Estate Terms Glossary Index
Questions About Condominium and HOA Documents?