Homeowners associations are only better in theory

Published: Sunday, January 30, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 29, 2005 at 10:52 p.m.
I was gratified to see that, in your Jan. 22 editorial, you are starting to highlight the issue of homeowners associations. I hope that you will increase your coverage of this topic in the future.
Currently, 50 million people in America live in some type of "community association," be it a condo, a co-op or a homeowners association, with the projection that 40 percent of all housing will be in community associations by 2010.
With homeowners associations, like many good ideas, the actual practice has perverted the theory. We all want to live in safe, well-maintained neighborhoods. However, homeowners associations are a pathological confluence of the worst excesses of the left and the right.
The essential premise of these associations is that "you will live in communal harmony or we'll make your life miserable and maybe take your home away." Depending upon the degree of intrusion mandated by the association's Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, homeowners may be restricted as to pets, trees, satellite dishes, solar panels, mailbox types, grass height, house color and much more.
The Florida Legislature has written statutes to override some of the more egregious CCRs, including the right to fly the American flag, the use of drought-tolerant landscaping and even the use of a clothesline. Is this the most effective use of our legislators' time?
The Community Association Institute promotes itself as the voice of homeowners living in these associations. CAI is a powerful lobbying organization for the community associations industry, which includes lawyers, accountants, community association managers, maintenance firms and others who obtain all or most of their incomes from assessments and fines paid by homeowners in homeowners associations and condos.
The homeowners association industry maintains that, unlike any other creditor, it must have the power to foreclose so that residents are sufficiently intimidated into paying their assessments.
The Governor's Task Force was empaneled in 2003-2004 to address the huge volume of statewide complaints regarding homeowners association abuses. Its recommendations provided some improvement in homeowner protection in the state statute, but the industry/government majority voted against implementing the safeguard most often sought by homeowners: a governmental regulatory body charged with enforcing the state statute. The analogy would be that of traffic laws without police enforcement.
I have asked our county commissioners to let me know if all new subdivisions in Alachua County are mandated as homeowners associations in order to manage storm-water drainage issues. With the exception of Commissioner Byerly, no commissioner has bothered to even look into my question. Perhaps The Sun might be more successful in getting an answer.
The subject of homeowners associations truly impacts people where they live.
Renee Makan lives in Gainesville.

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