Homeowners Associations and Housing Restrictive Covenants in Florida
The latest developments surrounding a ban that Florida’s Suntree Master Homeowners Association wants to place on allowing sexual offenders and sexual predators to live on the property has made news headlines. This housing restriction sheds light on what rights homeowners associations and other property managers have in terms of setting particular standards for residential developments, and what measures they may take in ensuring that very particular goals are met.
Specifically, the association is asking residents to amend their housing restrictive covenants and approve expanding the zone of protection of city and county ordinances in order to bar sexual offenders and predators from owning or renting there, effectively restricting offenders from residing within 3,000 feet from areas where children regularly congregate (which effectively covers the entire Suntree development). The association’s proposed policy could soon become one of the strictest when it comes to whether or not sexual offenders and predators can be banned from residential developments.
Suntree Master Homeowners Association
Suntree is one of Brevard County’s largest residential developments, with 4,500 households that include townhouses, apartments, single-family homes, schools, day care centers, trails, golf courses, parks, bike paths, and numerous neighborhoods (or sub-associations).
Fair Housing Statutes & Housing Covenants
When it comes to fair housing statutes, bans such as these are arguably legal because housing covenants tend to have a significant amount of power over what, specifically, can make up a given neighborhood. While anyone already living at the development who has been convicted of sex crimes would typically be grandfathered in; in this case, Suntree has stated that it will determine these circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
Approximately one year ago, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued guidance concerning any restrictions placed on selling or renting properties to convicted felons. Specifically, the Department was concerned that housing restrictions could end up adversely affecting particular races more than others due to the correlation between race and a higher number of arrests and convictions in general.
However, when it comes to directives like those of Suntree’s, it is important to look at the specifics of what a homeowners association is proposing. By becoming a part of the association’s declaration of covenants, the restriction would likely survive a challenge under the Fair Housing Act and Florida law under the premise or general concern that sexual offenders are more likely to commit crimes in the future, regardless of race. For example, it is somewhat common for local governments to restrict registered sex offenders from living within a certain distance of a school or park out of concern for public safety, and where a state or local government has a concern, an association arguably has the right to have that very same concern.
Florida Homeowners Association Attorneys
At HD Law Partners, our homeowners association and property manager attorneys advise clients in Orlando, Sarasota, Tampa, and surrounding areas. We provide proactive legal representation and help ensure clients that their property interests are protected and any and all policies are in keeping with federal and state laws. Contact us today for assistance.