Living in a residential community governed by the Homeowners Association can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. The rules set by HOA are usually beneficial for all homeowners and set a high standard regarding safety and living conditions.
Sometimes, however, you might run into many unique problems, such as disputes regarding the maintenance of your property. In most cases, you can resolve these disputes in a friendly matter, but sometimes, issues with this association might escalate into a more serious problem.
In the worst-case scenario, you might even need to hire a Jacksonville HOA attorney.
Luckily, by arming yourself with knowledge, you can discover the best way to resolve any potential disputes without stress.
Here’s everything you need to know:
Become familiar with the HOA rules
Before you bought your property, you probably received a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). These are documents where all the HOA rules and regulations are located.
As a homeowner, your responsibility is to ensure you stay compliant with the HOA rules. However, that’s easier said than done because the rules are comprehensive, to say the least. They cover different topics, from proper lawn care to rules covering outdoor gatherings and everything in between.
While most of these rules are put in place to ensure everyone acts like a good neighbor that respects all the other members of the community, you can never be too safe. Maybe some clauses are inherently at odds with how you want to use your property.
Using HOA’s internal rules to solve disputes
Before thinking about contacting a Jacksonville HOA attorney, you’ve got to do your homework first. Whip out those CC&Rs and look for information on internal processes of solving disputes.
These internal processes usually adhere to state laws and HOA is required by the state to follow guidelines for the resolution of disputes. However, even in the states where the internal processes of solving disputes are arbitrary, associations still adhere to a particular process that’s outlined in their CC&Rs.
For instance, depending on the community, the first step of the process might involve an informal meeting between you and the president of HOA or board members. This might resolve the issue depending on how both sides approach this meeting.
Keep in mind that even if you manage to resolve the dispute right there and then, it’s best if you behave professionally. At the end of the day, these are all the community members you’ll most likely run into regularly.
That doesn’t mean you should let anyone strongarm you either. If you’re sure you’re in the right, you need to protect your legal rights, and you can certainly do that without coming off as unprofessional.
What if the internal process fails?
For the next part, you should have someone advising you, such as a Jacksonville HOA attorney. Even though in most cases, there are many options to solve a dispute without falling back on proper litigation, you still want to pursue justice. Having a Jacksonville HOA attorney at your side can help you avoid any mistakes that can lead to an unfavorable outcome.
If the internal process didn’t help resolve the issue at hand, the next step might be Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). This process offers both parties a method of resolving the dispute without going to court. ADR might include:
Whether mediation is mandated by state law, or proposed as a way to resolve disputes in the HOA documents, the process, and the goal are the same – resolving disputes without going to court.
A mediator is a neutral third party invited to listen to both sides make their case. By considering both sides of the story, the mediator will then try to help parties come to an understanding by finding a middle ground and resolving their issue.
Mediation is voluntary, which means that both parties have to achieve a mutual resolution. and none of the parties have the right to force the other to resolve the dispute.
Arbitration is quite similar to mediation, with one major difference.
A decision-maker, more commonly referred to as an arbitrator, is tasked with listening to arguments from both parties and reviewing any evidence that the HOA and homeowner provide. In contrast to mediation, where both parties had to reach an agreement mutually, in arbitration, an arbitrator decides how to resolve the dispute.
Depending on the state, the arbitrator’s decision might be final. The purpose of arbitration is again, to stop any party from taking the issue to court. Which as you know, is costly and time consuming for both parties.
However, in Florida, both options exist simply to help the parties find a resolution before filing a lawsuit, but if they fail, litigation can happen.
Mediation and arbitration in Florida are mandated to promote an amicable resolution to HOA disputes. As such, the parties need to attempt to resolve the issue amicably before going to court.
According to Florida Statutes, the HOA must pursue mediation for issues such as damage to property and construction defects, and so on. However, if mediation fails, both sides can file a lawsuit. In most cases, the court will usually give a lot of weight to mediator recommendations.
A similar rule applies to arbitration as well, as if it fails, parties can start a process of litigation. That is unless both parties agreed beforehand that the arbitration is considered binding. In that case, the decision of the arbitrator is final.
When should you hire a Jacksonville HOA attorney?
Hiring an attorney is never a waste of time. This is especially true if you have a hunch your dispute with the Homeowner Association might become trickier than you originally anticipated.
The CC&Rs can sometimes be overly convoluted, and you might run into clauses that seemingly make no sense. A Jacksonville HOA attorney can help you see the facts as clearly as day and cut through unclear clauses.
While arbitration and mediation are great ways to solve disputes amicably and reach a mutually favorable agreement while salvaging a personal relationship, not every case is the same.
Without an attorney, you’re practically fighting against the entire HOA board alone, and you might get tricked into accepting an unfavorable agreement.
By hiring a Jacksonville HOA attorney, you’ll get an answer to your burning questions, but more importantly, they can help steer you in the right direction.
The information in this blog post is for reference only and not legal advice. As such, you should not make legal decisions based on the information in this blog post. Moreover, there is no lawyer-client relationship resulting from this blog post, nor should any such relationship be implied. If you need legal counsel, please consult a lawyer licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.