By 2010, the Community Associations Institute (CAI), a national organization providing resources for planned unit developments and homeowners associations, estimated that 24.8 million American homes, and 62 million residents are currently being governed by HOAs.
In Florida, co-ops and condominiums are governed under Chapter 718 of the Florida Statutes, also known as the Florida Condominium Act. HOAs are governed by Chapter 720, the Homeowners Association Act. Both chapters are living documents subject to change and revisions in the law, and it is imperative to refer to the most recently revised copy when searching for legal precedents or information. Chapter 719 concerns Florida’s cooperatives, which are normally governed by a proprietary lease, a declaration, bylaws and articles of incorporation.
A property’s governing documents—declarations, covenants, conditions and restrictions, and articles of incorporation—are legal contracts, and board members and residents’ need a working knowledge of the contents in order to understand how the law applies in any given situation.
How It All Began
Homeowners associations first formed in the middle of the 19th century during the period when America was moving from an agricultural society to an industrialized nation. Emerging railroad lines made commuting to cities possible, while at the same time railroad communities began to grow up around the rural railroad stations. The growth away from the dirty, noisy cities effectively formed the first suburbs, and the first homeowners associations but not much happened with those early HOAs before the mid-20th century.
In the 1960’s, the federal government became involved as a major force in the expansion of HOAs. The Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) pushed for large, architecturally uniform residential developments. As available land decreased, and construction costs increased, federal mortgage insurance rules were modified to include homeowners associations. In an effort to make high-density residential homes attractive to potential buyers, developers included open green areas and association grounds. Since residents would still pay the taxes on these common areas, local governments were on board with the developers. Services formerly provided by the municipalities were then initially offered by the developers.