Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Published June 11, 2005
Boca · There may be a few parked cars with rusted frames marring the view
here, but one is more likely to notice the trim homes bordered by potted
plants and flanked by SUVs, hallmarks of any American suburb.
Residents of Boca Dunes Golf & Country Club, a mobile-home community, want
even fewer junked cars and more manicured lawns. That's why after 30 years
with no effective homeowners association empowered to enforce rules, a group
of homeowners went to court to wrest some control from the Boca Dunes Golf
& Country Club, an entity they say has imposed unreasonable increases in
maintenance dues and failed to keep up the community.
A settlement expected to be approved by a court this month would allow
homeowners to form a committee enabling them to enforce the community's deed
restrictions. It's a step residents hope will bring them closer to the
formation of a legitimate homeowners association board to represent the
community, help protect property values and avoid the management pitfalls that
characterize runaway boards.
Residents who back the move say they are concerned that failure to maintain
Boca Dunes' orderly appearance may discourage buyers and hurt property values.
And despite the growing number of legal cases brought by residents against
overzealous homeowner association boards, many Boca Dunes owners say they are
looking forward to the organized leadership of residents.
The 170-home community was built in 1969, years after the enactment of a state
law that requires developers of planned communities to transfer the rights of
that community's governance and the enforcement of rules to residents.
According to the covenants under which it was built, only the Boca Dunes Golf
& Country Club can enforce the community's deed restrictions and make sure
residents are keeping their driveways uncluttered and their grass cut.
Golf course officials say they've worked with residents over the years to
enforce the deed restrictions and maintain that though they are empowered to
do so, state law does not require it.
"On many occasions we've written letters to residents who don't mow their
lawn or who keep abandoned vehicles in their driveways," said David
Welch, an attorney who represents Boca Dunes Golf & Country Club.
"We've done that as a good neighbor in an effort to help the community
because it is our neighbor. We were doing it voluntarily in order to be
helpful, but we don't have any obligation to police the neighborhood for the
Residents currently pay about $84 a month in dues to the golf club and $105
for lawn maintenance. As part of the settlement, residents would pay $70 to
the golf club and give up their rights to the tennis and shuffleboard courts.
They also would form the deed-restriction committee and are working on
mobilizing the entire community to form a real homeowners association
Previously, the existence of a self-styled "social club" attempted
to act as a homeowners association to little avail and with little community
input, residents said.
"We have people moving in here who are running down the neighborhood.
They have junk heaps in their carports and park on the grass and we need a
real homeowners association to do something about it," said Floyd
Drummond, a plaintiff in the suit against the golf course who would head the
committee. He's lived in the community for nine years.
"The country club hasn't been enforcing anything," Drummond said.
"Part of the problem is that there's nothing in the restrictions
regarding penalties, so we're writing up new articles with specific penalties
Committee members are concerned with setting the stage for a democratic and
"We don't want ... condo commandos here so we're writing up voting
procedures," Drummond added.
It may be long before Drummond and others involved in the class-action suit --
about 100 residents have signed on -- are able to get a homeowners association
off the ground with the community's full participation, but support is
Paulette Surtis, 59, bought her home four years ago for $102,000. It is now
valued at $175,000 in an increase that reflects the community's growing
"It'd help bring a better class of people in here and prevent people from
owning 80 pit bulls and parking broken cars in their driveways," she
Suzanne Joy, 46, enjoys a view of a tree-shaded canal from her screened-in
porch in the home she shares with her 8-year-old son.
"A homeowners association would really keep people in line more. You
wouldn't have the cars and the mess. And if you live normal, then you don't
have to worry about the HOA coming after you," she said.