Article Courtesy of The Destin Log
By Jack Simpson
Published October 9, 2017
Let’s first take a whimsical look at European Heaven and
In European Heaven, the Swiss run the government, the Brits run the police, the
Germans make the cars, the French prepare the food and the Italians are in
charge of romance.
In European Hell, the Italians run the government, the Germans run the police,
the French make the cars, the Brits prepare the food and the Swiss are in charge
We witness the same
“heaven or hell” in many of Florida’s Home Owner Associations,
or HOAs. That is why so many people have a bitter taste from
being in such associations and won’t even consider buying into
one again. They may even move. I don’t feel that way. Most HOAs
serve a good purpose such as architectural restrictions and
sensible rules that protect home values. As a real estate
investor, I have been a member of 13 different associations in
Okaloosa and Walton counties. I would grade 11 of them as “A” or
“A+.” I would grade the other two as “F” or “F-.” They are all
either Homeowner Heaven or Homeowner Hell.
In Homeowner Heaven, the board of directors solicits input from
the homeowners and acts accordingly. The board works for the
owners. In Homeowner Hell, the board dictates their rules to the
owners and punish them if they don’t comply. They seem to think
that the homeowners work for the board.
In Homeowner Heaven, all
homeowners are equal and treated accordingly. In Homeowner Hell,
the board treats some homeowners, especially absentee owners and
rental owners, as a separate, lower class. They use selective
enforcement to punish whistle-blowers and others with whom they
disagree. To paraphrase George Orwell, “All homeowners are
equal, but some are more equal than others.”
In Homeowner Heaven, the board sets policy and pays an experienced and properly
licensed Community Association Manager to manage the association. In Homeowner
Hell, the board micromanages the manager who is little more than a puppet. He or
she has little experience and may not even be licensed.
In Homeowner Heaven, the board actively encourages owners to speak at board
meetings on any subject they wish. In Homeowner Hell, the board discourages
owners from speaking by requiring them to submit a “Request to Speak” card in
advance and limiting their comments to the few items on the agenda.
In Homeowner Heaven, the manager promptly complies with official record requests
for documents. In Homeowner Hell, the board discourages owners from obtaining
official records. In one extreme case, the board passed rules requiring owners
to pick up requested records only in person and only during limited weekday
office hours. That rule makes it extremely hard on absentee owners who may have
to travel hundreds of miles just to pick up a simple document. Most don’t even
In Homeowner Heaven, the minutes from the latest board meeting (which are the
most important minutes) are posted on the website and clearly marked “DRAFT.” In
Homeowner Hell, the latest board meeting minutes are never posted until they are
too old and cold. The only way to get the latest meeting minutes is to pick them
up in the difficult process described above.
Conclusion: Homeowner associations are controlled by the board of directors.
They determine whether you live in Homeowner Heaven or Homeowner Hell. The
solution is to elect directors who put their personal agendas aside and put the
homeowners’ interests first. If they don’t, vote them out. It’s won’t be easy -
but it is better than moving.