Rental restrictions may crimp plans
By RICHARD WHITE
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 19, 2002
Question: I plan to live in my new condominium unit for a few months each year and rent it for the rest of the year. Now I find that the board charges a $50 processing fee for any guest who stays in a unit when the owner is not present. Can they do this?
Answer: Many associations have restrictions on rental units. Read your documents and ask the manager or officers whether your association has any rental restrictions or fees. In most areas, short-term rentals are prohibited. Some associations require that renters meet with a screening committee, and there may be a processing fee. These are questions you need to ask upfront if you have any intention of renting the unit.
Think before you buy
Question: I am thinking of buying a house in a deed-restricted community. The sales agent told me I cannot put up a fence or plant a tree without approval. This is taking away my rights as a homeowner. I have been taught that my home is my castle and I can do with it what I want.
Answer: Your rights are not being taken away. You are voluntarily relinquishing some rights to benefit from the amenities and standards of the community. It's good that you are raising this issue before you buy. You should make a list of what you can't live without, such as a fence. If the community you're considering doesn't allow fences, buy somewhere else. Communities with strict codes protect property values better than communities without the codes, and that's what you want, isn't it? To protect your investment?
Fee limit not advisable
Question: The condo where we're considering buying has no limit on annual increases of monthly fees. Other buildings limit fee increases to 5 percent annually. Should we be concerned that fees could escalate out of sight? Who controls them? Could we be priced out of our home?
Answer: A restriction embedded in the documents, such as limiting annual fee increases to 5 percent, could restrict the board's ability to raise the income to meet necessary expenses.
The board's primary obligation is to maintain the association. It is required, by statute and documents, to approve an annual budget with adequate reserves. That budget is calculated to cover expected expenses to maintain the association, and the reserve accounts are calculated for future expenses. Limits on fee increases could mean depreciation of your property values if the board cannot properly maintain the common areas.
- Write to Richard White, c/o Community Living, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Sorry, he can't take phone calls or provide personal replies by mail, but you can e-mail him at CAMquestions@att.net. Please include your name and city. Questions should concern association operations; legal opinions cannot be offered. For specific legal advice, contact an association attorney.
Readers may call the state Division of Condominiums Bureau of Customer Service at toll-free 1-800-226-9101 with questions or requests for materials. Access the Bureau of Condominiums Web site at www.state.fl.us/dbpr/lsc/index.shtml; or write to Bureau of Customer Service, 1940 N Monroe St., Northwood Centre, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1032.
Please note that this office provides no information about homeowners associations. The state has no bureau or department covering those associations.
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