Even though there is no legal obligation for a homeowners’ association to notify new purchasers of lots of the existence of the homeowners’ association and recorded governing documents in relation to the lot, rarely will an owner acquire title to a lot or home without knowing that they are becoming a member of a homeowners’ association by virtue of their acquisition of title to the lot or home because of certain requirements imposed by law.
First, all purchasers of any lot that requires the owner(s) of the lot to be a member of a homeowners’ association should be provided with the disclosure summary required by Section 720.401, Fla. Stat. prior to executing the contract to purchase the lot. If, somehow, the disclosure summary required by Section 720.401, Fla. Stat. is not provided to the potential purchaser before they execute the contract to purchase the lot, then the owner should still realize that they are acquiring title to a lot that will require them to become a member of a homeowners’ association if they purchase title insurance in connection with their purchase of the lot. The title insurance policy they receive will indirectly inform them of the existence of the homeowners’ association for their lot because the title insurance policy will exempt from its coverage any claims arising under the recorded governing documents that establish the homeowners’ association for their lot.
Similarly, homeowners’ associations normally will be aware that the ownership of a lot in the community is in the process of changing because the homeowners’ association should be contacted for estoppel information by a title company or the seller to make sure that any outstanding obligations of the seller to the homeowners’ association are addressed before title to the lot is to conveyed to the purchaser. However, it remains possible that an owner might not be aware that they are becoming a member of a homeowners’ association in purchasing their lot or home and homeowners’ associations may wish to have a policy of reaching out or providing basic information to new owners to ensure the new owners are aware of and will comply with the recorded governing documents for the community.
One way to do so would be to have a form letter prepared to send out to new owners to provide them with basic information about the community, especially about any obligations that would be new or novel to an owner who has never been a member of a homeowners’ association. The letter should cover basic information such as the amount of the ongoing assessments and when they are due, common restrictions on the use of lots or requirements relating to changes to the lots, the recording information for the governing documents and when meetings are held, and how to obtain additional information about the homeowners’ association. A similar way to do this would be to have the basic information available on a website and to send a letter to any new owners confirming that that they are now members of the homeowners’ association by virtue of their recent purchase and that they can obtain information about the homeowners’ association through the website.
Finally, the homeowners’ association may have a welcoming committee that could be responsible for making some type of personal contact with new owners to provide them with the same basic information. Regardless of how this is done, homeowners’ associations should consider doing something to reach out to new owners in their community to make sure that new owners get off on the right foot and aren’t surprised about the existence of the homeowners’ association for their lot or any issues related to their obligations as members of the homeowners’ association in relation to their lot.