Home Buying in Orlando>Question Details

Rick Breese, Home Buyer in West Palm Beach, FL

Can an HOA refuse to approve a cash buyer because I am an International Investor? They charge a higher fee for Internationals as well? Discrimination?

Asked by Rick Breese, West Palm Beach, FL Tue Oct 4, 2011

I am an International Buyer from the UK and have put a deposit to the title company already. HOA said they will not approve foreign buyer. Also HOA application fee for foreigner is $200 compared to $35 for US Citizen? Apparently HOA run by one older gentleman for 10 years.... What should I do? Is this not discrimination which is not allowed in Florida?

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I agree with Ken. Something is not quite right. How do they justify the extra expense exactly other than you being a foreign buyer?
I am a foreigner as well, and have had similar situations. They usually give in when exposed, but do you really want to deal with such an HOA?

Call me any time if you have further questions at 407-929-9674

Thank you,

1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 4, 2011
I'd be suspect of the community and the HOA. there are some really bad ones around. Hopefully your agent has given you some good insights towards placess to avoid and those to invest in. there are some greeat places. Good luck.
Ken Anderson
ApexOne Realty,Inc
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 4, 2011
if there is a fee specified for the approval process in the declaration or bylaws then the HOA can charge it. IF there is no fee specified then they cannot charge it. I would be very surprised to see a fee in the HOA Docs that is 2 tier. you are entitled to a copy of the HOA Docs. ask for it and review the fees. where is the subdivision ? what is the HOA called. Most HOA docs are on line in the public records. Get your agent to help you. I am from UK too and have seen thsi problem before but you just need to stand your ground and only pay the fees that are required by the HOA Documents.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 4, 2011

The only reason they can refuse you as a buyer is because the community has as many rentals as they are allowed and they their rules do not allow any more. I am not sure that the HOA has the authority to deny a foreign buyer just because of being a foreign buyer ....
I would ask to see the HOA's charter!!!!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 4, 2011
Rick you should ask the attorney that is handling the closing to review the docs and FL state laws to see if there is any disrimination or of these are written rules in the hoa docs
Web Reference: http://www.ScottSellsNH.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 4, 2011
It sure sounds like discrimination. The HOA may have restrictions on having investor purchases as HOA can state a certain percentage can be for owner occupant and the rest investors. I know that when I purchased a town home during the boom I had to be an owner occupant, because only 25% were for investors and they were already sold. So, maybe they feel you are an investor?? I do not know. They may not want renters. Did you read HOA doc's before you signed the contract, or do you still have time through your inspection period? Check with your REALTOR. I hope you used one.

Call a Real Estate lawyer who deals with HOA. All HOA are different, condo, townhome, and single family.

Fees are usually determined by the board of directors of the association. Good luck. Donna
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 4, 2011
If the price is too low; Off course association don't like to approve the sale because affect all price properties due to Comparable price. Some Realtor like me maybe we can not write a Excellent English but for sure we understand the market and legal conditions. I see buyers who dont close a deal because they think they are discriminate for the price in background criminal. Diferent than the (RFR) right of first refusal . that's why this type of HOA are not subject to financing by Federal Government because this properties real discriminate the buyers. Not FHA Approved.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 6, 2012
Maybe the answer is condominium association, and sometimes the project developer, can include a right of first refusal (RFR) in its governing documents. It is not standard or required.

The advantage of this right, is that the association or developer can stand at the head of the line to purchase a unit, ahead of any right the current seller may have to sell the unit.

The disadvantage may be to the seller, who may be able to achieve a higher selling price in the open market.

The disadvantage to the association or developer may occur when the holder of the RFR does not have the funds to purchase the unit.

Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Right_of_first_refusal_condo_assoc…
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 6, 2012
You did not come here to get the answer, you came to insult everyone who does not pat you on the back.
Some decency wouldn't hurt.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 6, 2012
Jon you are simply showing yourself up to be that Realtor that doesn't research the law and actually doesn't act in anyone's interests except yourself. But keep putting your ignorance down in writing, thankfully there are many good realtors out there who are willing to find out the correct answers. As an international buyer I needed to know facts NOT opinions and there are several Realtors on here and who contacted me by email who were able to point me to the correct legal definaitions. You obviously don't care about the legal rights of buyers and are trying to justify yourself. And failing. No problem. Just understand that people from abroad need to know facts. Surely they are not being unreasonable in expecting their realtors to know the law?
Flag Fri Sep 7, 2012
Read other comments, and I am surprised by the attack on agents. Yes, the CVondo Association can charge different fee for Background chek.
Some of them subcontract a company, and it is easy and fast within US, and the same Condo Associtaion has to use another company to do international checks, and they charge more.
Are you looking for solutions or a reason to attack agents?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 6, 2012
Can the refuse to approve? Depends what the condo docs say. In some condos here in Daytona they can refuse for any reason. In some they have to have specific reasons.
Also it depends on what is written in the Seller's request.
It is a bit more involved than just a simple "yes" or "no" answer
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 6, 2012
I believed is because International Background is more expensive than the local Florida background for $35 dollars. I do several transaction for Latin buyers who don't live in Florida.

International Searches. Throw out everything you think you know about checking people out. Start with zero and you won’t be disappointed. Maybe you can get a criminal history report with some degree of accuracy and you can verify employment and education but that’s about it.

Costs: a Criminal History Report anywhere in the US (in up to three jurisdictions) except New York is only $49. New York is $75. International Criminal History checks are $99 in most countries and $140 in Great Britain and $200 in Russia.

Turnaround time: is anywhere from a couple hours to 2-3 days. (More for international criminal checks). Remember that we are doing real criminal searches often by hand. Yes, in at least half of the USA’s 3100 counties records must be searched in person at the court clerk’s office. That’s why those instant nationwide searches that you see advertized are junk. They only collect data where it is online and free, which is less than half of the country
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Sep 5, 2012
Jon - it seems like many realtors you do not bother to research your subject. Which is one of the reasons I continued to post. The fact is many GOOD AND HONEST REALTORS gave answers here supporting what I said that under the Fair Housing Act a HOA can NOT discriminate on nationality. I have only bashed as you called it, realtors like yourself who obviously do not know the subject they work in and decide to comment on a important legal matter for buyers without bothering to do any research.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 15, 2012
We worked with Canadian Buyer, and Condo Owners Association had a contract with a service doing the background check, and they charged differently for Florida, more for out of state, and even more for foreigners.
As for discrimination, who said that you can't discriminate. There is a list of situations when you can't discriminate, but outside of this list you can discriminate as much as you want.
Also, it sounds more like you are not that much looking for advice. It sounds more like bashing Realtors
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 12, 2012
I've never heard of such a thing, do you have this in writing?

I can see why they would charge more, if your mailing address if overseas.

Mark Fleysher
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Oct 14, 2011
Just found this... not sure if it's correct:

By law, an association may reject a prospective buyer or renter for reasons allowed by governing documents. State law does not require the association to provide a seller a reason for rejection. And there no provision for challenge of the decision.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Oct 13, 2011
David Barr - Firstly thank you, secondly - I think it is awful that buyers both domestic and foreign might be dealing with just one agent and be given information that is not just incorrect, but be told something is correct that actually is breaking the law.

I hate red tape and governments regulating everything - but if so called professionals give this kind of advice what is the alternative answer to protect those who will just rely on their opinion?

The Attitude of Ms Kee for example who can not actually see that she was giving advice which was not in line with the law. Yet she is apparently a Director of an HOA?

In answer to her question - In the UK I would very doubt a HOA Association would be entitled to a criminal background check. They are mainly preserved for jobs, volunteering with children etc. The argument is simply thus - If an HOA does not have in its Articles/Documents that a higher fee can be charged for a Foreign resident - it can't charge one. If it tries to it is discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Oct 12, 2011
Hi Again,

Perhaps the volunteer Director with the HOA (is it actually an HOA or is it a condo association) has been given incorrect information from his hired Licensed Community Association Manager. It happens all the time that HOAs have hired management firms that do not adequately advise their volunteer Directors to comply with Federal and State Statutes.

So if an HOA were to ask for a criminal background check for a person's activities in the UK, a mere US background check can pull a person's criminal history in Europe? That's surpising.

Let us know if they decide to accept you!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Oct 5, 2011
Well all you foreign buyers out there, this is EXACTLY an example of what I was pointing out when choosing a Realtor. There are many very experienced and honest Realtors out there who will not profess to give you information they think they understand and actually don't. If anyone did need a recommendation (and I apologise to all the other good agents who did give me good information on this question, but I am only recommending an agent whom I have dealt with and the second agent from here who I actually had a lot of contact with when I first started to buy in Florida (not sure he realised that!!) Those are Brian Chisholm and Alan Martin. Both have considerable experience with foreign buyers and have no hesitation in pointing you in the direction of an Attorney if needed. (I know you can google both and their contacts will come up.

IN response to Ms Alma Rose Kee, if you had bothered to even spend 20 seconds googling the Statute Law I quoted you will find that there is a direct exemption for over 55 age communities under "The Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995". I am shocked that a Realtor with 10 years experience and even more worryingly a Director of an HOA did not know this simple information!!! Please tell me what higher costs are there to vet a foreign national? Which credit check can a US HOA do on a Foreign National that costs more than a US Citizen? The only check they can run is via a social security number of which a foreign investors equivalent is a ITIN. Which costs the same. Something any Realtor who wants to deal with foreign investors should know about as an Investor will not be able to file any property tax papers etc etc etc without an ITIN.

I'll put the link here to the Fair Housing Law for anyone that might need to refer to it....
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Oct 5, 2011
Hi Rick,

That's great that you have found an experienced attorney with Condo/HOA laws to advise you. Make sure you check to be sure that attorney has experience with condo/HOA State Statutes, not just "rental" rights laws.

I'm not an attorney and from my direct 10 year experience (and being a volunteer Director of a Florida HOA) I'm surprised that an HOA and/or Condo does not have the right to charge various fees to foreign nationals (because of the significantly higher costs to vet a foreign national) and also have the right to prevent any owner from buying in their complex--as long as it complies with the more restrictive state statutes. Have you heard of 55 and older complexes that restrict ownership to those under 55?

Keep us posted as to how it all works out for you!

All the best,
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Oct 5, 2011
Thank you for the answers that some have given below. Especially the ones that said this WAS discrimination and/or advise me to seek legal advice. As a note from someone who is actively buying in the Florida market it does worry me somewhat on some of the answers - The fact that a Real Estate Professional who would be the first point of contact for a foreign buyer, can state that an HOA can contravene both State and Federal Law as long as it's in the documents is quite frightening like Ms Alma Rose Kee said.
I was told by the Real Estate Lawyer to quote the "Fair Housing Act Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act)" at the HOA. My Realtor mentioned this and the HOA have backed down.
I think for any prospective foreigners like myself out there looking to buy in Florida, the MOST important thing is to get a good Realtor who will give good advice and will be upfront if they don't know something rather than tell you something that is utterly wrong. I wish there was the ability on here for BUYERS and SELLERS to do blogs and not just agents. I think that different perspective would be very helpful.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Oct 5, 2011
Hi Rick,

It seems reasonable for me for an HOA/Condo Association to charge a higher fee for approving a foreign national because the fees for the background check must surely be higher.

The Declaration, Articles of Incorporation, ByLaws and any Rules and Regulation documents for the HOA/Condo along with the Florida State Statutes governing HOA (or it actually sounds like a condo) will dictate whether or not the association can put restrictions on ownership, i.e. no pets, no criminal background, no pink hair, no british accents, etc. Condos/HOAs discriminate every day and I believe it is perfectly legal for them to do so as long as it is clearly written in the Documents.

So your first step is to ensure you have ALL of the condo documents if you think the "10 year" volunteer Board of Director is making decisions that do not follow the condo/HOA docs. There should be at least 3 Board of Directors so one person cannot control the approval process. If you mean the "older gentleman" that is running the place is merely a paid manager hired by the Board of Directors then he has zero control, it's up to the board of directors elected by the homeowners.

So here's an interesting website that may sway you to decide NOT to buy in an HOA or Condo Association, take a look:


All the best,
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Oct 5, 2011
I should have specified this further info - thanks by the way to those that have given thoughtful replies - I checked with the HOA docs, they have no percentage issue's with investors/owner occupiers. The seller is an investor. Any tenant has to go through a approval process - fine, but I have never heard of an HOA charging a higher Buyer Application for a foreigner than a US Citizen. The ONLY criteria they rejected me on is because I am not a US Citizen.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 4, 2011
Based on the fact that you are an investor-yes, because some complexes only allow owner occupants or restrict number of investors. I agree with Greg & Lisa-they can refuse to sell to investors, regardless the country they are from.
You should ask based on what governing laws your approval is denied.
I suggest that you seek legal advice. Good luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 4, 2011
In most areas there are rent restrictions on some complexes. They could refuse to sell to any investor, but not just because you are from another country. I would check with your broker regarding the complex and make sure you are going to be able to rent it once you purchase.
Best of luck,
Lisa Doyle
J. Rockcliff Realtors
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 4, 2011
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