I frequently run into customers moving to Florida from out of state who’s first priority is, “I don’t want to see any communities with an HOA” Home Owners Associations are so prevalent here in Florida if found it surprising that it would be a high priority. However after reading the definition of Homeowner Association on Wikipedia, I understand why. By the definition provided, it sounds like and HOA is a legal loophole made by the Developer, for the purpose of selling property which gives the developer special privileges and allows the Developer to shed certain legal and financial responsibilities. Here in Florida it is not so much a legal loophole as a legal necessity. Local governments learned a long time ago that different neighborhoods had different expectations of amenities and services that were very hard for an elected official to deal with. Take street lights for example. Some neighborhoods have wooden poles with lights on the end of a tube commonly known as “cobra heads”, Others have very nice lantern style street lights while still others have and all glass dome style. The costs to maintain these different lights varies dramatically and if the local politicians only allowed one style light, or if they allowed different styles and absorbed the different costs, sooner or later they would find themselves in trouble with a constituent somewhere. So in Florida, the politicians came up with a typical Florida solution. Turn it into a “user fee” so it’s not the politicians responsibility. It’s very ingenious actually, The Electric Utility Leases the light, and light poles to the local HOA and also charges for the power the light uses. Both the electricity and rental fee get charged to the HOA. The Developer gets to choose the light style and pays to install the lights then the HOA pays to “rent” the polls and pays for the electricity used. The Developer is happy, the new homeowners get the type and style of light that they expect, the power company is certainly happy (wouldn’t we all like to be the landlord of streetlights we didn’t have to pay for) and the politicians stay out of hot water. It appears to be a great deal for everybody.
The other area of typical expense for an HOA is the maintenance of common grounds. Communities that are planned have methods of taking care of rainwater runoff on site. These generally result in the creation of wet or dry retention or detention ponds. I won’t go into the differences except to say dry ponds need to be mowed and wet ponds need to be managed so the water doesn’t become stagnet and polluted. Either way maintaining these areas costs money. Does the local government want to pay to maintain that pond in the upscale neighborhood with the fancy fountain and lights? Not really, again that is a responsibility of the HOA.
The same thing goes for maintaining the entry monument. That’s the part that most everybody sees. Are there seasonal flowers? It it trimmed and groomed? What does it say about your neighborhood? A city council member could never keep their constituents happy if that was part of their oversight. The solution, make that part of the HOA responsibility.
Additionally, any special amenities your community provides, a Community Pool, Club House, Fitness Center or special services like Lawn Maintenance if provided are paid by the HOA. It’s one way that Florida ensures the people receiving the benefit pay for the service and the taxpayer is spared the expense.