The Florida Legislative Session began on January 11th and is expected to wrap up by the end of this week. We’ve been tracking the 21 bills filed throughout the session that would directly impact community associations throughout Florida. Below is a summary of the proposed bills that are still making their way through the final leg of this year’s session.
As always, we will inform our readers as to which of the proposed bills become new law, and we will also provide a comprehensive summary of those bills and their impact on community associations. In addition, given the anticipated changes that might come into effect for the state regarding the funding of reserves and new inspection requirements for condominium buildings, we encourage readers to also stay on the lookout for possible changes at local levels. For example, we recently covered a new Miami-Dade ordinance that requires community associations located in the county to upload certain documents and information to a new publicly accessible database (click here to learn more).
Residential Associations — SB 394 and related HB 547 revise the certification and educational requirements for boards of directors of residential community associations. Newly elected or appointed board members would be required to certify by affidavit that they have read their association’s declaration, articles of incorporation, bylaws and written policies AND will attend a division-approved board certification course. If passed, this law would be effective July 1, 2022.
Condominium & Homeowners Associations Flags — CS/SB 438 and related HB 465 permit owners in condominium associations and mandatory homeowners associations to display a flag representing the United States Space Force on designated holidays. If passed, this law would come into effect on July 1, 2022.
Display of Flags in Residential Associations — SB 1716 and related HB 1371 authorize owners of condominium associations to display The United States flag, the official flag of the State of Florida, a flag that represents specific special forces, a POW-MIA flag and certain first responder flags, even if the association’s covenants, restrictions, rules or requirements prohibit owners from displaying flags. This act will take effect July 1, 2022, if passed.
Condominium Associations — SB 880 requires that all unit owners be considered defendants in a tax suit. It also revises criminal penalties for kickbacks, identifying the act as a third-degree felony. Additionally, this bill makes changes to the document inspection process, including imposing criminal penalties to any director, member or manager who knowingly and willfully refuses to produce records, and requiring an association to provide an itemized list and a sworn affidavit to persons requesting to inspect records. Violators would be subject to a charge for committing a misdemeanor of the second-degree. It also specifies acts that comprise fraudulent voting activities relating to association elections. If passed, this law would be effective October 1, 2022.
Homeowners’ Associations Ombudsman — SB 1296 and related HB 1033 create the new Office of the Homeowners’ Association Ombudsman at the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes. The new ombudsman will have power to monitor and review elections, make recommendations to the division for changes in rules and procedures associated with the filing and investigation of disputes between owners and associations, and will assist with the resolution of such disputes. This law would be effective July 1, 2022, if passed.
Building Safety — SB 1702 incorporates some of the recommendations provided by the Task Force that was created in the aftermath of the Surfside tragedy. The bill requires “milestone inspections” of condominium and cooperative buildings of three stories or more. Such inspections will include inspections of primary structural components and systems of buildings and will consist of two phases of inspection. The bill will also require licensed engineers or architects to assess the building and prepare and submit an inspection report which must be submitted to local building officials and unit owners. The report will become a mandatory part of the association’s official records and must be available to prospective purchasers for review. Also, the bill authorizes boards to adopt a special assessment or borrow money for certain reasons without unit owner approval. If passed, this law will take effect on July 1, 2022.
Community Association Building Safety — SB 7042 also incorporates some of the provisions provided by the Task Force. This bill requires mandatory “milestone inspections” of residential buildings of three stories or more by licensed architects or engineers for the purpose of attesting to the life safety and adequacy of the building’s structural components. It also requires reserve studies for structural components of buildings, requires full reserves or “alternative funding methods” such as a line of credit, and constitutes reserve studies and inspection reports pertaining to the structural or life safety inspection of association property as an official record. The bill allows the pooling of funds for as an alternative method to fund reserves, but identifies specific components that may not be pooled with reserves. The bill orders that reserve studies will be performed following the uniformed standards and forms set forth by the Division. Finally, the bill provides a private cause of action for unit owners if a board of directors fails to perform the required milestone inspections, reserve studies, fund reserves and/or make or provide necessary maintenance/repairs of association property. If passed, this law will take effect on July 1, 2022.
Abatement of Taxes for Residential Dwellings Rendered Uninhabitable by Catastrophic Event — SB 1610 and related HB 71 specify conditions under which persons whose residential dwellings are rendered uninhabitable may receive abatement of taxes, such as unforeseen structural collapses and subsequent demolition. If passed, this bill will take effect upon becoming law.
Vacation Rentals — SB 512 and related HB 325 preempt short-term vacation rental regulation to State. If passed, this bill will take effect upon becoming law.
Mortgage Payoff Letters — HB 353 and related SB 1016 revise requirements for estoppel letters requiring specific information to be provided within a specified timeframe, and authorizes corrected estoppel letters. It also imposes damages for inaccurate estoppel letters or those not provided in a timely manner. The act will take effect on October 1, 2022, if passed.
Structural Engineering Recognition Program for Professional Engineers — SB 940 and related HB 375 establish the Structural Engineer Program for Professional Engineers, recognizing professional engineers who have exceeded the required minimum professional engineer standards. It establishes minimum requirements for receive recognition through the program. If passed, the act will take effect on July 1, 2022.
Construction Defect Claims — CS/HB 583 and related SB 736 shorten the period for a claimant to allege latent defects (the statute of repose). It requires a notice of claim to include an inspection report verified by the person performing the inspection and provides that a bad faith preparation of an inspection report constitutes grounds for discipline. Among the changes impacting claimants alleging construction defects, the bills provide that a claimant receiving compensation for an alleged construction defect discloses the defect to a purchaser of property if full repairs were not performed. If passed, the law will take effect on July 1, 2022.