Questionnaires vs. Estoppels: What’s the Difference?

The closings department at Leland Management is responsible for aiding homeowners in closingsfacilitating the closings process whether they be buying or selling a property in one of our communities. This team of 4 representatives processes everything from deeds to questionnaires and estoppels, verifies tenant approvals, downloads homeowner payments daily, and ensures each new owner receives a personalized welcome letter. The closings department processes 950 deeds and 850 estoppels on average each month while simultaneously providing each owner with the superior level of customer service they deserve. The closings process can be confusing and one of the most common questions our closings department receives is in regards to the difference between an estoppel and a questionnaire. To answer this question we have included short descriptions of each below.

Estoppels and questionnaires are both documents that are processed by Leland Management and can be ordered via our website, www.communitydocsnow.com.  Both documents may be requested when a closing is coming up, but they serve different purposes.  An estoppel is a document typically ordered by a title company that is meant to protect both the buyer and the seller during a closing.  The estoppel will disclose any outstanding liens, utility balances, violations, gate access charges, and any additional amounts that may be due to the association such as capital contributions or resale fees.  The estoppel is usually paid for by the seller and applies to an individual property. 

Questionnaires are documents that are usually ordered by a lender.  Lenders require these documents to be completed in order to verify the financial status of the association.  Questionnaires vary in length and can range from a few questions to several pages of questions depending on the lender.  Typically, a questionnaire will at least ask whether the association has pending litigation, how many delinquencies there are in the association, and it will also confirm that an association is strictly residential property as opposed to commercial property.  The cost of a questionnaire is usually incurred by whoever is requiring the loan and applies to the association as a whole as opposed to an individual property.

If you have any further questions concerning the difference between estoppels and questionnaires please contact our closings department at closings@lelandmanagement.com for more information.

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The Importance of Reserve Studies

nordlund_9608As we enter into a new year many associations are adopting a new budget, many of which contain a reserve study. Here at Leland we recommend that associations maintain a current reserve study as a barometer for future expenses that are non-annual. A reserve study provides a current estimate of the costs of repairing and replacing major common area components (such as roofs or pavement) over the long term. Ideally, all major repair and replacement costs will be covered by funds set aside by the association as reserves, so that funds are there when needed. This requires: examination of the association’s repair and replacement obligations; determination of costs and timing of replacement; and determination of the availability of necessary (reserve) cash resources.

Because the board has a fiduciary duty to manage association funds and property, a replacement reserve budget is very important. Not only does this information supplement the annual operating budget in providing owners with financial information; the reserve study is also an important management information tool as the association strives to balance and optimize long-term property values and costs for the membership.

Potential buyers may want request a copy of the reserve study before purchasing. Fully reviewing and understanding the reserve study is an important part of evaluating the value of an association. For association members, reserve planning helps assure property values by protecting against declining property values due to deferred maintenance and inability to keep up with the aging of common areas and amenities.

A good reserve study shows owners and potential buyers a more accurate and complete picture of the association’s financial strength. The reserve study should disclose to buyers, lenders, and others the manner in which management of the association (i.e., the board and management company) is making provisions for non-annual maintenance requirements. Preparing a reserve study calls for explicit association decisions on how to provide for long-term funding, and on the extent to which the association will set aside funds on a regular basis for non-annual maintenance requirements. A good reserve study may also function as a maintenance planning tool for the association.

The Reserve at Town Center: Achieving Resort Status

It is well known that Orlando, Florida is a popular vacation destination with a multitude ofTown Center resorts, but location alone does not determine the success of a resort.  In the minds of many, a “resort” is less about the location more about the setting. Resort status is achieved by being able to provide for the majority of the vacationers needs in a luxurious setting with the highest quality amenities.  To many, the Reserve at Town Center is just that resort.

Located in Davenport Florida, The Reserve at Town Center is an exclusive gated community of 94 homes that offers short term rentals to vacationers who are looking for a “Resort” like setting. Town Center fits the bill by offering pools at every home and gorgeous views of the surrounding preserve and landscaping.    As the website suggests, The Reserve at Town Center is the, “Perfect place to stay during your dream holiday”.  Leland Management, the Community Association Management Company, could not agree more.

Creating and maintaining a resort like status for a community is not an easy task, but by working together Leland and the Board of Directors of Town Center make it happen. Leland Management has focused their attention on enhancing the beauty of this lovely community and improving the rental and resale value of the homes. In addition to the daily management tasks of the community, Leland created a renewed focus on the concerns of the residents/owners such as: landscaping, lawn care, maintenance and trash removal. Another key element was vendor selection.   Leland Management and the Board of the Reserve at Town Center were able to select key vendors that share in the overall vision for the community.  “The success here at Town Center has been a group effort, not only by Leland and the Board of Directors but also vendors that have a vested interest in the community beyond that of job. Long term partnerships with our vendors have allowed us to build relationships that ensure the community is performing at the resort level”, says Sabrina Stephan, Community Manager.

As a result of all the hard work from the Board of Directors, the management company and the vendors, the community of Town Center is a wonderful place to vacation and live.   People are looking to buy and rent in the community because of how it looks and makes people feel.  The Reserve at Town Center is a Resort and it attracts people from all over the world to bask in the Florida sun, enjoy the exciting attractions and most of all relax in a beautiful setting.

Common Complaints in HOAs: Parking

It is no secret that parking enforcement is a sensitive issue for homeowner’s associations car2goand their boards; and, few issues can compete for the title of “most aggravating” among association members. Often times the potential for disagreement over what restrictions should be implemented, how they should be enforced, and whether the association has the authority to enforce them, is present.

Most homeowner’s associations have CC&Rs and rules which restrict where its members may park, what types of vehicles are permitted to be parked within the development and for how long. Rules generally differ depending on whether it is a condominium project or single-family planned development, whether the area is urban or rural, and whether parking is abundant or in demand. Although associations typically have the authority to regulate the private streets within its development, one particularly thorny issue is how and whether an association can enforce parking restrictions on public streets located within the geographic boundaries of a common interest development (CID).

Association Regulation of Private Streets

Some developments consist of private streets which are not open for use by the public and are owned or maintained by the association. Generally, under state law and the governing documents, the association may regulate parking as to both members and non-members in these developments. Typical regulations might restrict the number of allowable vehicles; prohibit or limit commercial or recreational vehicles; and require that vehicles be parked in garages. The association will generally have the authority to enforce those parking restrictions by levying fines, suspending member rights, and by towing.

Association Regulation of Public Streets

Although an association may have authority to enforce parking rules on its private streets, its authority to adopt and enforce internal parking restrictions applicable to public streets within the development is less clear. Public streets, which are those publicly maintained and open for use by the public, are generally the responsiblity of the government; and, an association may not interfere with that regulation, except to the extent authorized by law.

Currently, no Florida statute expressly authorizes (or prohibits) an association from regulating parking on public streets located within the development’s geographic boundaries; but, an association has the power to enforce its recorded CC&Rs.  Owners, by purchasing property subject to such CC&Rs, relinquish certain individual property rights they might otherwise have and accept the risk that an association’s discretionary power to enforce restrictions or create new ones may be used in a way that harms the individual owner but benefits the development as a whole. Further, associations have a compelling interest in preserving property values through enforcement of the governing documents. How terms are defined in those documents may make a difference in providing an association the authority to regulate the public streets; however, an absence of language specifically granting an association authority over the public streets should not be construed to mean that no authority exists. The governing documents must be considered as a whole and consideration given to the intent of the drafters of the documents.

Enforcement by Towing

As with any use restriction, the real challenge is in enforcement. To make parking enforcement less challenging, the association should adopt fair and reasonable parking restrictions that are consistent with its governing documents, ensure that the members are aware of the restrictions and apply and enforce those restrictions in a fair and reasonable manner. Where applicable and authorized, an association can tow the unauthorized vehicle; however, towing requires compliance with city codes, which provides detailed procedures that must be followed when towing from private property. In most cases, an association must do the following three things in order for tows to be procedurally proper under the law: (1) provide vehicle owners with prior notice of their inability to park on the property; (2) provide proper written authorization for the tow; and (3) comply with the statutory reporting requirements.

Conclusion

Associations have the authority to regulate parking on private roads within the development, where authorized to do so in the governing documents. An association may also have the authority to regulate parking where the streets are public in nature. In either case, a review of the governing documents is necessary in making such a determination. The association has available to it the important and powerful remedy to tow unauthorized vehicles from the development. The towing statutes are procedurally complex, but not insurmountable if the association takes the time to understand and follow the statutory requirements, create reasonable and clear internal policies, and apply those policies in a fair and consistent manner.

by Andrea L. O’Toole, Esq.