Homeowners associations (HOAs) are a common feature in many residential communities in the United States. They provide various services, enforce community rules and regulations, and oversee the maintenance of common areas. When a property within an HOA community is being sold or refinanced, an important document called the HOA estoppel letter (or estoppel certificate) is often required.
This document contains essential information about the property’s standing within the HOA, including financial obligations and rule compliance. Here’s what you should know about HOA estoppel certificates in Florida.
Regulations and Capped Fees for Estoppels in Florida
Florida has specific regulations concerning HOA estoppel letters, which are laid out in the Florida Statutes (Chapter 720). These regulations provide protections for buyers and sellers by imposing certain requirements on the content and fees associated with estoppel letters.
To prevent excessive charges, the fees for preparing an HOA estoppel letter are capped. As of 2023, the maximum fee an HOA can charge is $299 for a standard estoppel letter. If the property owner is delinquent on their assessments, an additional fee of up to $179 can be charged. In cases where expedited processing is requested, the HOA may charge a rush fee of $119.
Florida law requires that specific information be included in an estoppel letter. This information includes the property’s assessment information and any other fees, fines, or assessments that may be due.
An estoppel letter is valid for a specified period. In Florida, the expiration period for an estoppel letter is 30 days if delivered electronically, and 35 days if sent by regular mail. If the closing date for the property sale is extended beyond the expiration date, the estoppel letter must be updated, but no additional fees can be charged for the update.
Assessment Information Needed for an HOA Estoppel Letter
An HOA estoppel letter provides crucial information about the financial standing of a property within the HOA. The following assessment information should be included in the letter:
Current Assessments: The estoppel letter should provide details on the current assessments for the property. This includes the total amount due and the frequency of payments (monthly, quarterly, or annually).
Delinquent Assessments: If the property owner has any past due assessments, the estoppel letter must list these amounts, as well as any interest, late fees, or penalties that have been applied.
Special Assessments: Occasionally, HOAs will levy special assessments for large projects or unexpected expenses. If there are any outstanding or upcoming special assessments, these should be disclosed in the estoppel letter.
Fines and Violations: The estoppel letter should include information on any outstanding fines or violations associated with the property. This may include violations of the community’s rules and regulations or architectural guidelines.
Transfer Fees: If the HOA charges a transfer fee when a property is sold, this amount should be included in the estoppel letter.
Insurance Information: The estoppel letter should provide information about the HOA’s insurance coverage, including policy numbers and contact information for the insurance provider.
Amenities and Services: The estoppel letter should also provide information about the amenities and services offered by the HOA. This may include details about shared facilities, such as pools, parks, and clubhouses, as well as any maintenance services provided.
Common Problems When Getting an Estoppel Certificate
Delay in receiving the certificate
Delays can occur when the HOA or its management company is slow to respond or process the request. This can cause issues with the closing timeline and potentially jeopardize the sale or refinancing of the property.
Incomplete or incorrect information
Estoppel certificates may contain errors or omissions, which can lead to disputes between the buyer and seller or complications with the title company. It’s essential to review the certificate carefully and address any inaccuracies immediately.
Associations that Have Been Dissolved
If an HOA has been dissolved or is no longer active, obtaining an estoppel certificate can be difficult. In such cases, it’s important to conduct thorough research to determine the status of the HOA and any potential liabilities. A real estate attorney or title company can help with this process.
Multiple Homeowners Associations
In some cases, a property may be part of more than one HOA, such as a master association and a sub-association. Each association may have its own estoppel certificate and fees. It’s essential to identify all relevant associations and obtain the necessary certificates to avoid surprises during the closing process.
Financing or Title Issues
Lenders and title companies often require an estoppel certificate before approving financing or issuing title insurance. If there are outstanding fees, fines, or violations, the lender may require these to be resolved before closing. Additionally, title companies may require the estoppel certificate to ensure that there are no undisclosed liens or encumbrances on the property.
Changes in Information Between the Time it is Ordered and Closing
Since the information in an estoppel certificate is time-sensitive, changes may occur between the time the certificate is ordered and the closing date. For example, new assessments or fines may be levied, or existing balances may be paid off. If the estoppel certificate expires or significant changes occur, an updated certificate may be necessary. In Florida, as mentioned earlier, no additional fees can be charged for updating the certificate if the closing date extends beyond the certificate’s expiration date.
Get Help with Estoppel Certificates in Florida from REAL RES
Navigating the complexities of obtaining an estoppel certificate can be challenging. REAL RES, a leading provider of real estate services in Florida, can help streamline the process. With a team of experts dedicated to assisting with HOA matters, REAL RES can help ensure that you receive accurate and timely estoppel certificates for your property transactions. Get in touch with REAL RES for estoppel certificates in Florida.