House or condo? 

Association incorporation leads to confusion


Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Maria Herrera

Published October 21, 2007


West Delray - Victor Bergman bought a home at the Lexington Club nearly 20 years ago. But he says he owns an apartment now. So does the post office, which lists his villa as Apartment #A on his mail.

"I don't own my own house anymore," Bergman, 87, said, rather angrily. "I own a condo."

Bergman, whose 1,600-square-foot villa shares a wall with another villa, said his homeowners association was dissolved years ago and turned into a condo association without the unit owners' approval. He found out when he began receiving mail that listed his address as an apartment instead of the duplex villa he purchased in 1988.

But board members and state officials said Bergman is confused.

"He seems to be under the impression the association converted his townhouse into a condo," said attorney James Reyer, whose firm represents the association. "You legally can't do this conversion."

It's not uncommon for communities incorporated as homeowners association to dissolve their incorporation and start a new one, said Bill Raphan, a paralegal with the Department of Professional and Business Regulation.

In this case, The Lexington Club Homeowners Association, which used to govern the gated community, was dissolved when the developer handed over the management of the property to the unit owners.

Raphan reviewed Lexington Club's documents and said he couldn't find anything illicit. The community is made up of a condo association and a community association, he said. The condo association governs 140 condos in two-story buildings, while the community association governs 290 villas, in addition to the common areas for the condos and the villas.

"It goes to show that there are very many different setups, and that's confusing people," he said.

Bergman's case illustrates some of the issues homeowners living in associations often face: understanding complicated incorporation documents and bylaws, and abiding by the restrictions.

There are 60 million people living in 300,000 community, homeowners, condo or cooperatives nationwide, according to the Community Association Institute.

Many of them are 55-and-older communities. As communities and their residents age, the potential for confusion increases, especially when community bylaws have been amended or changed.

But Bergman insists they have taken his home away and replaced it with a condo. His attorney disagrees.

"He's from an old school where a man's home is a man's castle," Bergman's attorney, Greg Winters, said. "But when you live in an association, you don't have all the rights."