Monday, December 27, 2010

Association Governance Elsewhere.

I was fortunate enough to take a recent vacation to Costa Rica. The phrase “Pura Vida” is heard at every turn in this Central American country. Most folks think the words mean Pure Life but it has evolved into several meanings and uses including a greeting, a goodbye and a phrase to celebrate good living.

My family and I stayed in several secluded areas where cell and internet service were not available. Having the chance to unplug for a little while was wonderful but even so I managed to still come in contact with community association issues!

Several of the people we met who live in Costa Rica mentioned their desire to move into gated communities for security reasons. When I asked them whether or not they believed such security was real or merely an illusion I was informed that guards in these private residential communities are armed and have the ability to discharge those firearms under certain circumstances so yes, the security they provided was quite real to them. What were some other surprising association tidbits I learned during my stay?

For starters, an owner of a Costa Rican condominium unit has voting power relative to the value of his or her unit. Those with more valuable property in the community carry greater voting power.

As far as HOA’s are concerned, they are unconstitutional in Costa Rica as having a purpose which is contrary to the inalienable rights of property owners granted under the constitution of Costa Rica. I know that tidbit will make some readers of this blog very happy and will strike terror in the hearts of other readers.

In Costa Rica, it is not uncommon for developers of single family lot subdivisions to represent to prospective purchasers that an HOA will be formed to deal with matters of common interest as well as to deal with common property and to levy fees on the property owners to carry out the mandate of such homeowners’ association. Despite those representations, Costa Rican HOA’s are purely voluntary in nature as far as participation by property owners is concerned. Costa Rican HOA’s do not have the legal authority to carry out any proposed mandates or to collect fees from the property owners in the subdivision that they purport to govern. Although the formation of HOA’s may make practical and logical sense in these communities, their mandate and the collection of any fees from property owners is unenforceable.

Just when I thought the association topic was over when I reached the airport in San Jose to return home, a fellow Spirit passenger mentioned how much he hates all kinds of community associations. This amiable fellow’s occupation was “house flipper” (his words) and he mentioned that the associations made his job of buying and selling real estate quickly in these communities very difficult. He did concede that his perspective was quite different from people who actually buy in these communities with a goal of making it their home. His main work now rests in Las Vegas and California since Florida proved to be an inhospitable climate what with our real estate taxes, high insurance rates and other fees related to property transfers. This gentleman’s parting advice to me was that no one should ever buy property in the State of Florida; renting was the way to go.

One thing is certain: everyone has an opinion about the community association lifestyle. Next time you travel, inquire about the local laws pertaining to common interest ownership communities; you might be surprised to find out how much better (or worse) we have it down here in Florida.

This work by Donna DiMaggio Berger, Esq. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Generic License.

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