Monday, May 21, 2012

What does the departure of "snow bird" owners mean for your condo, cooperative or HOA?

As we head into June, many Florida communities may see far fewer faces around the pool, lobby and other common areas. Why? Because many owners with homes in other locations tend to leave us during our balmier months in Florida for cooler climates elsewhere.

The term "snow birds" typically refers to retirees and other folks whose primary residences are outside our state but who spend a good portion of their time down here in the late Fall and Winter. The general migration tends to be a return to Florida (and states like Nevada, Arizona and others in the Sun Belt) in late November and a departure in late May.

Over the years, there have been grumblings from both the snow bird camp and the ones left behind. At one time, quite a few condominiums required year-round residency to serve on the board. The Division of Condominiums frowned on those restrictions and the Statute now clearly lists which conditions render someone ineligible to serve on a condominium, cooperative or HOA Board and primary residency elsewhere is not among those conditions.

What are some of the issues that have been attributed, fairly or unfairly, to snow bird owners?
  • When the board is made up of directors who leave the state for months at a time, meetings and other operational issues can come to a standstill;
  • When owners leave their units untended for months at a time, issues can spring up which can adversely impact neighboring units. The most common example of this is a hot water heater that springs a slow leak and goes unnoticed for some time, causing significant damage to both the unattended unit and neighboring units; and
  • When hurricanes and other storms approach, there can be difficulty reaching absentee owners to make arrangements for storm preparations.
What are some of the issues that concern owners who love their Florida winter homes but live elsewhere for a good portion of the year?
  • Some snow bird owners contend that they are not given a fair shot at serving on their boards given a general bias against them;
  • Many snow bird owners deplore their property tax situation; 
  • Often, there is the complaint that voting materials and other important association documentation never makes its way up north to the owner's other address.
For those of you who are snow bird owners or have a large concentration of snow bird owners in your community, what are the issues you've enountered and how have you successfully resolved them?

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