top of page

A Snowbirds Summer Guide: Don't Think of It as Just a Winter Timeshare

By Christopher Carter - Real Estate Broker Associate

June 27, 2024

Seasonal residents of Florida have long been referred to as "Snowbirds" because they come here during the winter months to enjoy our warm weather, beaches, and tropical lifestyle, then head back "up north" for the summer. For this article, we are talking about owners of Florida properties in Association-governed buildings or communities who only occupy their residences during winter months. This includes Condominium Owners Association (COA) buildings and Homeowners Association (HOA) communities.

Staying informed while you are away is just as important as making sure the A/C is set properly, the water is turned off, lighting timers are in place, and all the other things you do when you won't be in your Florida residence for the summertime off-season.

You pay your Association assessments year-round (not just when you're there), so it makes sense to stay involved with Association business year-round too.

One of the main reasons people buy properties in COAs and HOAs is so they can be away for extended periods while built-in security and shared common area maintenance continue during the time they are gone. This provides great peace of mind when owners will be away from their Florida residences during the summer.

Property owners automatically become Association members when they buy into a condominium building or HOA community. Each Association elects a Board of Directors to oversee the business of the Association, representing and protecting the owners' collective interests. The Board is your best source of information for what happens in your building or community.

It is VERY important for seasonal residents of Florida condo buildings and HOA communities to stay well-informed about what is going on in their Associations year-round, not just during the time they spend here. Maintenance projects, administrative matters, and planning sessions often happen in the summertime while things are slower than the busy winter season when more owners are living in their properties.

Remember that during July, August, and September parts of South Florida receive torrential rains just about every afternoon. Summer rains can cause water intrusion to houses and condos, along with localized flooding of landscaping, streets, common areas and amenities, and community ponds and lakes.

On top of that, Florida's Hurricane Season runs from June through November, the months when most Snowbirds are not occupying their Florida residences. Storms can hit anywhere in Florida, so it is very important to know how your Association prepares for (and cleans up after) rainy season and summertime storms. You have a sizable investment in your Florida residence, so be aware of how your building or community is run when you are not there.

Here are a few ways seasonal residents can stay engaged with their Associations while away from their Florida houses or condos:

• Request that your Board and Manager communicate Association business with you via email in addition to any statutory notification requirements. This will include dates and times for Board meetings, updates on maintenance projects, and other information. You will have to opt-in to receiving electronic notices, and ask your Board or manager for an authorization form.

• Attend Board meetings remotely via Zoom or other live video platform. Online live video makes it very easy to attend meetings from far away.

• Speak with Board members regularly, asking questions and commenting on Association operations. Your Board of Directors needs owner feedback

• Become relatively familiar with your Association's Governing Documents and Rules for Residents

• Open and read every email and newsletter you receive from the Board or manager

• Talk with other owners to discuss Association and property issues

Association Boards have the authority to make certain decisions on their own without an owner vote. On the other hand, some decisions do require an owner vote, and just about ALL topics that come before the Board benefit from owner input and viewpoint.

Here is one of the most important reasons for seasonal residents to stay well-informed and participate in Association business:

For some topics that require an owner vote, Associations are allowed to only count the number of ballots cast and proxies returned ("members present and voting") when calculating voting results. For others, the Association must use the total number of owners eligible to vote ("total voting interests") when calculating the number of owners in favor of that topic.

Depending on the matter being decided, it could take either a simple majority (51+%), or a 2/3 (66+%) majority for approval, two common standards for measuring voting results in Florida Associations. Those percentages can result in very different outcomes when they are applied to either all eligible owners or just the ones who felt like voting.

By not voting at all because you are a seasonal resident, you could be indirectly approving something with which you strongly disagree.

How does your Association count votes for different topics? If you don't know, find out.

Here are some scenario examples for seasonal residents to consider:

What if your Board wants to spend Association money (owners' money) on something that you feel may not be in the best interest of all owners? Will you express a viewpoint or wait to find out the money has already been spent when you return next winter?

Do you feel that some maintenance or repair needs of the building or community are being overlooked or postponed? Rainy summer weather in Florida magnifies all sorts of maintenance issues.

Would you want to know that a Special Assessment is being discussed because there may not be enough money in a Reserve account to pay for an upcoming maintenance or replacement expense? Special Assessments are paid in addition to regular (quarterly) assessments.

What if your Board is starting to discuss amending the Association's Governing Documents or changing some Rules for Residents? You will want to express your viewpoint and have as much time as possible to research the issues before a vote is scheduled.

Seasonal residents own their condo units and houses just as much as full-timers own theirs. They have the same rights and are required to pay their Association's scheduled assessments (dues or fees) whether or not they happen to be in Florida when payment is due.

The main takeaway today is for seasonal residents to do everything they can to stay well-informed and participate in the operation of their Owners Associations, even when they are not here.

You are the year-round owner of your Florida Condo or HOA residence. Don't think of it as just a winter timeshare. Stay involved with your Owners Associations.

This edition is one that you really should forward to anyone who owns Florida property and is a seasonal resident. Snowbirds tend to own in Association-governed buildings and communities for the convenience and safety reasons mentioned earlier, so the points made today may help quite a few of them.

Editor's Note: Christopher Carter is NOT an attorney. He does not give legal advice. For interpretation and application to specific circumstances of anything you read in this article, you must speak with a Florida-Licensed attorney.

Have a question or comment about anything you see here, if so, visit:

bottom of page