It’s Easier to Ask Forgiveness Than It Is To Get Permission But Not In An HOA

It’s Easier to Ask Forgiveness Than It Is To Get Permission is a quote from the late Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, who was a U.S. Naval officer. While Admiral Hopper’s quote is frequently used to mean do the right thing within the bureaucracy of a large organization, whether or not those in charge know it in order to help those for who you work, this principle does not work will withing the bureaucracy of an HOA.

If you want to paint your house, you better get permission. If you want to change your landscaping, you better get permission. If you want to let your kids leave their toys on the front yard, you better not! So when Admiral Hopper said, “It’s Easier to Ask Forgiveness Than It Is To Get Permission”, she was most likely not thinking about life in an HOA. The axiom “My Home Is My Castle” does not necessarily apply, if you live in an HOA and more and more Floridians are living in them.

According to iProperty Management, as of 2019 the statistics for Florida are that:

  • There are 48,500 HOAs in Florida.
  • Roughly 9.57 million people live in HOA communities.
  • Each HOA has an average 197 residents.
  • 44.5% of the state’s population lives in HOA communities.
  • 67.3% of homeowners are part of HOAs.
  • An estimated 3.52 million homes are part of HOA communities.
  • Home ownership statewide is 66.2%.

While HOA rules do provide many benefits, such as the visual uniformity of the neighborhood, the retention of higher property values, and a quieter standard of living, these rules can also be difficulty to navigate, feel too restrictive and often cause frustration to the point where the homeowner feels they are being unfairly treated. The unfortunate truth is that every home buyer in an HOA should be provided with at least the disclosure that the property being purchased is located in an HOA community or actually provided what are known as the Governing Documents of the Community. These include the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&R), the By-Laws and the Rules/Regulations. Sadly, many home buyers fail to read these Governing Documents prior to purchasing their home, which results in a most shocking experience when they later attempt to make an improvement to their new home or worst receive a violation warning letter from the HOA’s property management company.

While there can be many areas that an HOA can control and regulate, some of the more obvious are as follows;

1. The lawn must be maintained in a way that conforms to the HOA’s standards. 2. Advanced permission is required to alter the exterior appearance of the home. 3. There could be a limit on both the type and number of pet you can have inside your home. 4. Parking rules and regulations are usually long and strictly enforced. 5. What you think is a part of your home, like a patio or walkway, may legally not be and the HOA can control it.

So how do you avoid a confrontation with your HOA?

The first step is to read all of the above mentioned Governing Documents and while these documents can be a total of over 100 pages, it’s well worth the time to avoid any headaches in the future.

If you receive a violation warning letter from the HOAs property management company, at least review the relevant section or sections of the Governing Documents, and if the warning letter fails to identify what specific provision you are alleged to have violated, then contact the HOAs property manager and insist all such provisions be specifically identified.

If you strongly feel that you have not violated any of the provisions in the Governing Documents, or that the alleged provision is unreasonable, you are entitled to a hearing before a violations committee. The rules enacted by an HOA must be reasonable and serve a legitimate community purpose. There are requirements that you are properly notified about the violation committee hearing and also limitations on who can serve on the violations committee. There are also exceptions in the Florida Statutes regarding the flying of flags, installation of solar panels, satellite dishes and certain types of landscaping.

So as you can see, “It’s Easier to Ask Forgiveness Than It Is To Get Permission”, does not apply to an HOA. If you are at odds with your HOA over an alleged violation of a rule or other provision of the Governing Documents, contact Ferrer Law Group, as we may be able to help.

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