When you are buying a condo in Florida, you are required by Law to receive a copy of the Declaration of the Condominium or condo docs as they are more commonly known – this is mandatory regardless of whether you are buying a resale condo, key ready condo or a pre construction condo. These condo docs are registered with the State and can be over 500 pages in length.
The condo docs will contain lots of specific information, including details about the developer, the formation of the Home Owners Association – HOA – and related fees, plans of the buildings, floor plans for each unit and the all important Rules and Regulations of the condominium
When buying a new – key ready or pre construction – condo, you are given – by law – 15 days to review and study the condo docs. Buyers of resale condos are given 3 days to do the same. If you come across anything within the condo docs you have the right to rescind on the purchase contract without penalty as long as it is done within the stipulated time frames.
Many buyers will receive a copy of the condo docs, see how many pages there are and ignore them. This can be reckless as information regarding voting rights and rules and bylaws can be very important and often have a direct affect on how you can live in and use the condo. Imagine buying the condo of your dreams that accepts pets, only to find out that they actually only allow ONE pet under a certain weight and you own two?
On the whole condo living is a great way to enjoy the Florida lifestyle as either a part time or a full time resident, but it is always wise to read the condo docs BEFORE you sign for the property, just so that you eliminate any nasty surprises and be able to sleep peacefully at night .
If you’re considering buying a condominium in Florida – you can view further information here at the official State of Florida website – we recommend that you not only read the condo docs but also the following documents prior to writing the contract on your new condo in Florida:
- A set of the Condominium Association Documents & Bylaws.
- A copy of the Condominium Association Budget.
- A list of frequently asked questions – The FAQ’s.
- A list of Rules and Regulations.
- A copy of the Application to Join the Condominium Association.
You are given three days when buying a resale condo and fifteen days when buying a new condo in Florida in which to review and question the documents. You need to be confident that the condominium is financially in good health and it will meet ALL of your requirements
A few important rules (which are only examples for the sake of this article) may include:
- Pet restriction – A limit of the amount of dogs/cats/pets you are permitted within the condo and/or within the grounds. This can also include weight restrictions.
- No motorcycles of any description
- No commercial vehicles allowed overnight. This can also mean trucks and pick ups.
- Maximum of 3 leases per year and/or minimum stay options
- Deed restricted age requirements 55+ Active Adult regarding both ownership, occupancy and visiting family and friends.
- For sale, for rent, real estate and even business signs may not be permitted
“Its better to know what you are going to buy than what you have just bought”
If you are uncertain of the exact meaning regarding one of the bylaws or rulings – some of the authors of these condo docs seem to have swallowed a thesaurus – firstly ask your realtor and if they do not know the answer, then contact the management company, the Condo Board President or the Officers of the Condominium Association, who should be able to give you a clear and concise explanation. By speaking to these “People in Power” you will also be able to just for yourself what it will be like to live in the same building with them.
Home Owner Association Documents and Condominium Documents are normally available from the County Clerks Office – many of them are now offering an online service.
In Florida, all condominiums are provided with a framework of Florida Statutes in Chapter 718. All owners of condos must pay assessments or maintenance fees which will cover the expenses for the common areas. They must also abide by the Association Rules. If, as a condo owner in Florida, you do not pay your maintenance fees, a lien can be placed on your unit and if your debts are not paid it can lead to foreclosure and eviction
Condominiums represent a large sector of the Florida real estate market, yet new owners are often poorly informed about the important elements that are integral to buying and living in a condo in Florida. A condominium is often discussed and documented as a mid-rise or high-rise block, but should also include garden apartments, rows of houses such as townhomes,, semi detached properties, single family homes or even mobile homes. Condos are most commonly known for being residential, but hey can also be commercial or a mixture of both. Each unit/property/home is individually owned but it is purchased with communal rights to use -and pay for – the surrounding areas and grounds, amenities and facilities, plus the upkeep. Condo Associations are NON PROFIT and for the benefit of all owners
The condominium association is responsible for the maintenance, protection and repair of ALL amenities and facilities that are integral to the condominium. This will include swimming pools, tennis courts, elevators, landscaping, security etc… New condominiums will have a Board of Directors appointed by the developer, but this will normally be handed over to the actual owners once an election has taken place amongst the owners.
The Declaration of Condominium is the document that will describe the condominium property, the individual unit boundaries and those of the whole development, the common elements and any improvements. Certain sections of the condo docs will specifically explain what you own as an individual owner as well as elements that are owned by the Condominium – Structural walls, roof and other common elements, etc…
Important information that you should ask for:
- What, exactly are your ownership and voting rights within the association?
- What percentage of the common expenses will you be liable for – many units offer different floor plans of various sizes, with each one making up a percentage
- What restrictions are in place regarding the common elements and your unit?
- Is there planning in place for further units to be constructed? If os how many and when?
- Does the developer have any options NOT to complete any of the facilities or amenities?
- Is there a history of resident complaints at the condominium?
- Is the Condominium Association involved in any form of litigation?
- Is the condominium Association sufficiently covered for with insurance
- Is the condominium well maintained – both internally and externally?
- Does the condominium Association have reserved funds – a sink fund – set aside for maintenance projects and future capital expenditure?
- What about pets – are there ANY restrictions?
- Can you rent or sell your condo without restrictions?
- Are there any restriction regarding family and friends using, staying with or occupying the unit?
The above is just a small sample of the information contained within the condo docs
Declaration of Condominium
The Declaration of Condominium is the most important document of all the condo docs, because this is the one that actually “creates” the condominium and is recorded in the local county official records. This Declaration of Condominium will specify the voting rights of owners, membership rights, how the common expenses are divided and a host of other important information
Articles of Incorporation
The Articles of Incorporation will explain the powers that are granted to the Association and the Board. it will explain the rights of the members, an indemnification clause for Directors and Officers as well as procedure for amending articles
The By Laws will show details of the different types of meetings, their frequency and location and notification periods. The duties of the Association, the Directors and the Officers, procedures for amending the By Laws, usage restrictions and financial reporting will also be included here.
Estimated Operating Budget
This Estimated Operating Budget will include estimates regarding all “common” expenses that are to be shared amongst the owners. Any expected future capital expenditure and maintenance projects over $10,000 should be shown here. E.G. Repainting, roof repairs or replacement, window replacement etc…
All Condominium Associations should be able to provide you with a Frequently Asked Questions sheet which should include a brief if not concise summary of any leases, restrictions or covenants that could affect the operation of the condominium.
If you are buying a new or pre construction condo, the developer is required to provide ALL buyers with a prospectus if the condominium will have more than 20 units or if it is to be part of a larger group of residential condos which will be “served by property”to be utilised in common, by condo owners of more than 20 units. This prospectus should summarise the main points of the condo docs and it is essential that you read AND understand all of the restrictions AND obligations that come with becoming and owner of the Condominium Association.
For further and more in-depth information about condo docs and Home Owner Associations, take look at the following links: