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Homeowner Rights and Protecting Your Property Value: An Interview with Thamir Kaddouri Jr. of TAMPALAW

By Thamir Kaddouri

Tell us a little bit about your experience and the services you offer.

TAMPA LAW represents a variety of clients, ranging from individuals to large corporations and insurance companies, and we provide all phases of civil litigation and appellate legal services. We represent both plaintiffs and defendants, and we are qualified to litigate and handle appeals in Florida state courts and district courts of appeal, as well as in all of Florida's federal courts. It is our goal to provide our clients with cutting-edge services that create value in their legal representation.

What are two or three of the biggest concerns for Florida homeowners when it comes to protecting their legal rights?

Each homeowner is unique and has concerns of his or her own, and the notion of protecting one's own "legal rights" may have different meanings for different people. Speaking in general terms, homeowners should purchase homeowner's insurance policies at the time they close on their purchase of a new home. A homeowner's insurance policy provides protection by furnishing a legal defense, and depending on the policy terms, indemnity in the event someone files a lawsuit against the homeowner.

Homeowners can be sued by individuals who injure themselves by tripping and falling while walking outside of the home or even by invited guests who may injure themselves while attending an event at the homeowner's house. As long as the homeowner notifies his or her insurer as soon as he or she is aware of such a claim, the insurance policy can be a valuable source of legal support in these situations.

As is true of all insurance policies, a homeowner should regularly check his or her homeowner's insurance policy to ensure the deductible is within the homeowner's ability to pay, and to make sure that the policy is sufficient to provide legal assistance in the event a claim is made, as well as to protect the homeowner's possessions and valuable contents of the home.

Can you briefly describe how a homeowner's association or similar entity typically affects a homeowner or condominium owner in a subdivision or planned unit?

Homeowners' associations and condominium owners' associations are both comprised of the owners of homes located in self-governed communities that enact their own rules and regulations and impose mandatory membership fees. Compliance with these rules and regulations is mandatory. The rules themselves must be carefully reviewed prior to closing on the purchase of a condominium or an association home, as they often govern matters such as the external appearance of homes, the owners' obligations of maintenance and upkeep, yard appearance, architectural review, and even the types of renters to whom an owner can rent the home.

An association can sue the homeowner for failure to comply with the association's rules (including those with which the homeowner does not agree). In addition, it is important to budget an appropriate amount every year to pay all monthly fees and special assessments that the association is authorized to collect. Failure to stay current with such payments can result in the filing of a lien against the home, or even foreclosure by the association.

Is there something that most people do not know about HOAs in Florida that they should consider before buying a house or condo that is subject to HOA rules and regulations?

Although homeowners' associations were once considered voluntary and were not all required to register with the State of Florida, the Legislature enacted new legislation in 2013 that requires all homeowners' associations in Florida to register with the State. In addition, many homeowners' associations must now have their annual financial statements audited by an independent certified public accountant.

Moreover, all homeowners' association directors are now required to file a written certification within 90 days "after being elected or appointed to the board . . . that he or she has read the association's declaration of covenants, articles of incorporation, bylaws and current written rules and policies; that he or she will work to uphold such documents and policies to the best of his or her ability; and that he or she will faithfully discharge his or her fiduciary responsibility to the association's members." Alternatively, such directors will need to file proof of satisfactory completion of an educational course administered by the State of Florida's Division of Condominiums, Cooperatives and Homeowners' Associations. These requirements are likely to result in an increase in fees or dues for homeowners who are members of homeowners' associations.

What are some of the most common property issues that you've seen happen between homeowners and a government agency?

Many of the common property issues we have seen between homeowners and a government agency relate to lien(s) and code enforcement violations.

What basic steps would you advise a homeowner to take if they are experiencing one of those issues?

Consult an attorney so you ensure protection of your legal rights. There are numerous pitfalls associated with understanding nuances regarding liens and code enforcement violations including the time frames wherein you can challenge claims.

What's the best way for people to reach you and your practice?

They can view information about the firm and its clients and results. People who have specific legal questions should feel free to contact me directly via email at Thamir.Kaddouri@TAMPALAW.org or by telephone at (813) 879-5752.

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About The Author

Thamir Kaddouri is a shareholder who has been admitted to practice in the State of...

Phone: 813-879-5752

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