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Real estate Q&A: No 'hard' law offers guidance for when HOAs require buyers to join golf clubs

Gary M. Singer, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: Our homeowner association recently passed an amendment to our community requiring everyone who buys a resale in our community to join the golf and country club. It is costly to do so, and I am having a problem selling my home. Can the association do this? – David

A: This is an area of law where there is no clear answer to give you. You live in a homeowner association property which is different than a condominium, and most of the law in this area concerns condominiums.

Several years ago, many associations changed their rules to limit the ability of owners to rent out their properties. The courts decided that condos could not do this and ruled that adding such restrictions was prohibited.

In response, the Florida Legislature overrode the ruling by changing the law to allow condos to restrict renting the property from new owners, but not current ones. This "grandfather clause" pertained only to condos and not to homeowner association communities.

With many community golf clubs struggling, associations are looking for ways to help fund them. Some are changing their rules to require all owners to join the club. Others seek to soften the blow by using a grandfather clause and only require membership when the property sells.

However, some of these clubs require a sizable initial buy-in for as much as $100,000. This has the effect of reducing the value of the property by limiting the number of potential buyers who can afford such a large deposit.

With no "hard" law addressing this, we are left to see what will happen.

Many lawyers I speak to feel that this is not allowed for the same reasons that the original condo rental case prohibited rental restrictions – that it changed the essential character of the community. Others view the change as one that merely requires a 75 percent approval from the owners, similar to converting, for example, a tennis court to a parking lot.

 

Existing case law offers little guidance. While this issue has been litigated before, the cases ended in confidential settlements before the law was clarified by the courts.

About The Writer

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

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