Can HOA require me to remove decorative latticework after being in place for over 4 years?

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Can HOA require me to remove decorative latticework after being in place for over 4 years?

I live in a townhome with a shared balcony with my direct neighbor. I put up a non-permanent latticework for privacy. My HOA wants me to take it down as it was not formally approved by the architectural change committee. The latticework has been in place for over 4 years, even before the architectural change committee was in place. In our HOA docs, it states…”if no suit to enjoin the alterations or change has been commenced prior to completion thereof, approval will not be required.” What exactly does this mean and does it apply to me?Thanks, Bruce

Asked on May 13, 2009 under Real Estate Law, Florida

Answers:

N. K., Member, Iowa and Illinois Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Under Florida's Homeowners' Associations Statute, the authority of the association to enforce standards for the external appearance of a structure or improvement is permitted only to the extent that the authority is specifically stated or reasonably inferred in the covenants or other published guidelines and standards authorized by the declaration of covenants. (Section 720.3035)

Without reading the covenants, it is difficult to answer your question. For example, I don't know if the covenants required you to give notice (and what kind of notice) before putting up the latticework. Did you notify them of the latticework so that they could decide to bring suit to stop you? These are just some of the questions that may be relevant to your case but one needs to know what the covenants state and/or imply. 

Here is the link to the Florida Statute:
http://www.flsenate.gov/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=Ch0720/ch0720.htm.

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

It can be dangerous to rely on a single sentence out of a large and complex legal document such as this.  You need to take all of the HOA and condominium documents to a Florida real estate attorney, if you want to fight this.  One place to find the lawyer you need is our website, http://attorneypages.com

The sentence you've quoted looks like it means that if you make changes to the property, and they don't go to court to stop you before the work on the change is done, you don't have to get the committee's approval.  I don't know how the situation might be affected, by the fact that the committee wasn't in place at the time you did this, or whether the quoted sentence only applies to permanent changes, or to changes indoors, and so on, because, again, this would probably depend on other language in the document as well.  You need a Florida lawyer who has read the paperwork to give you a definite answer -- and sometimes, it takes a court to give the "final answer."


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