The media likes to report on the rights of condominium and HOA owners being trampled by their boards of directors. Yes, that happens and abuses deserve media attention to prevent their continuation but equal attention should be paid at least to the fact that owners have responsibilities in addition to their rights.
What, then, should an owner expect to take on as his or her responsibilities when buying a home in a mandatory community association?
1. Read the association's governing documents (the Declaration, Articles, Bylaws and Rules and Regulations). Yes, they are long and boring and filled with legalese but you have to know what you are getting into before you buy. If you have a 75-lb. Rottweiler you might want to think twice before buying a condominium with a no pet restriction or a 25-lb weight limit on dogs. The same holds true for leasing restrictions, commercial vehicle restrictions and a host of other rules that you must decide you can live with or you can't.
2. Pay your assessments even if you have a dispute with your association. If you don't like the board, hate the manager or deplore the community's condition, you must still pay your assessment or you risk being liened and ultimately losing your home to foreclosure. Pay your assessments in full and fight your other battles separately.
3. Attend board and membership meetings, vote in board elections or better yet run for the board. You lose your credibility if you complain but never get involved.
4. Speaking of complaining, resist the urge to become a recreational complainer. Some owners start out with legitimate complaints but make a career out of complaining about everything and anything. Pick your battles.
5. Maintain, repair, replace and properly insure the property for which owners bear those responsibilities.
6. Secure your property prior to a hurricane or other storm approaching. If you have furniture, plants and other items on your balcony, please take them in so they don't become missiles and harm your neighbors' property.
7. Provide the association with your most current contact information so you can receive all association notices.
8. Be a courteous neighbor and a respectful participant at meetings.
9. Don't assume other peoples' intentions; if you don't know, ask.
10. If you lease out your unit, get approval first and make sure your tenants and other occupants understand that they must comply with the association's rules and regulations.
Just as an owner should understand and fight for their rights, if necessary, he or she must also honor the responsibilities they undertake when choosing to live in a mandatory community association.