It Has Begun, 2017 Florida Condominium Association Legislation

It’s only the beginning, Florida’s 2017 Pending Condominium Association Legislation

-By Joshua Gerstin, Esq.

Recently, Florida’s House and Senate passed a bill drastically changing the laws related to condominiums. Considering the public landscape of the various issues the bill addresses, it is unlikely Governor Rick Scott will veto the bill.   Therefore, condominium associations should begin to familiarize themselves with these new laws as soon as possible.

Following are changes to Chapter 718 from the recently passed Senate Bill 1682, additional legislative changes affecting community associations are expected from the legislature in the near future (will be detailed upon passage in subsequent articles):

1.     The term “kickback” was inserted, although undefined, in the list of prohibitions against a director when choosing a vendor for a condominium association.  In certain circumstances, kickbacks or other prohibited conduct can now be classified as a crime.

2.    Theft, embezzlement, forgery of ballot envelopes, election fraud, the destruction of official records in the furtherance of a crime and the acceptance of kickbacks are all classified as crimes.

3.    A condominium association is forbidden from hiring an attorney that also represents the association’s management company.

4.    Board members, the property manager and the property management company are prohibited from purchasing a property at a foreclosure sale resulting from the association’s foreclosure.

5.    No later than July 1, 2018, condominium associations with 150 or more units must have a website dedicated to the association’s activities on which required notices, records and documents can be posted. The website must contain a members only, password protected page accessible only to unit owners and employees of the association. The legislation contains an extensive list of documents that must be posted to the Association’s website.

6.    If permitted by the Association’s Bylaws, term limits of four consecutive two year terms can be imposed on a director and require a 2/3 majority to reelect.

7.    The Board certification requirement for recalls is removed in its entirety. Directors are required to step down at a meeting five business days after a recall petition with the requisite votes is submitted.

8.    An association or any officer, director, employee, or agent of an association may not use a debit card issued in the name of the association, or which is billed directly to the association, for the payment of any association expense. Use of a debit card issued in the name of the association or billed directly to the association for any expense that is not a lawful obligation of the association may be prosecuted as credit card fraud pursuant to s. 817.61.

9.    A condominium association cannot employ or contract with any service provider owned or any person who has a financial relationship with a board member or officer, or a degree of consanguinity by blood or service provider in which a board member or officer, third degree of consanguinity by blood or marriage of a board member or officer, owns less than 1 percent of the equity shares of the service provider.

10.     Arbitrators hired by the Division are mandated to hold a hearing within thirty days of confirmation of a dispute and issue a written opinion thirty days after the hearing.

11.    Management companies are required to disclose financial interests in any vendor they recommend to an association

12.    Management companies are required to turn over all association records when their contracts expire.
A determination of whether the Division has adequate funding to handle its increased responsibilities remains an open question.  Nonetheless, Governor Rick Scott is expected to sign Senate Bill 1682. Other bills affect community associations are winding their way through the legislature. We will keep you updated as further legislation develops.

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The Carpet Does Not Legally Have to Match the Drapes, Florida Condominium Insurance

According to Richard Bennett of JDsupra.com, late last week a federal court in Florida tossed a condominium association’s claims that it was entitled to replace undamaged hallway carpeting, wallpaper, baseboards, and woodwork in order to “achieve aesthetic uniformity” with similar hallway components replaced after water damage.  In Great Amer. Ins. Co. v. Towers of Quayside No. 4 Condominium Ass’n., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150358, 2015 WL 6773870 (S.D. Fla., Nov. 4, 2015), the court held that replacing undamaged property to insure “matching” is only appropriate if the repairs concern “a continuous run” of items such as that.
Read more

Looming ADA Rules Could Affect Millions of Websites

ada-website

As many small business property owners will attest, the ADA is a brutal and often times unfair law. Property owners that do not comply with the ADA are not entitled to any advanced notice prior to being sued.  Although important to promote access for the disabled, often times the ADA is exploited by a person that either has never actually visited the premises or visited the premises solely for litigation purposes.  This same heavy handedness is coming to websites and whether they are accessible to the disabled.  Property owners such as hotels and hospitality websites will be the first front which will soon be expanded to almost every website.

For more information, and how to check to see if your website is ADA compliant go to: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/small-business/fl-ada-website-accessibility-suits-20150623-story.html#page=2  

Please contact our office to assist your business with all of its legal technology needs, including the issue of ADA compliant websites.

U.S. Supreme Court Bankruptcy Ruling Will Help Florida Community Associations

In Bankruptcy, community association liens are often times “stripped off” if the home is worth less than the amount of the mortgages that are securing it. The United States Supreme Court put an end to that practice as it relates to second mortgages which presumably would also apply to community association liens. Full article here

New Proposed Federal Regulation: Amateur Radio Antennas & Towers Must Be Allowed in Your Community Association

Presently pending in the United States Congress, H.R. 1301 is a bill proposed to protect the installation and use of amateur radio antennas and towers in community associations.  According to the bill, “[t]here is a strong Federal interest in the effective performance of amateur radio stations established at the residences of licensees”.  In regard to a community association’s restrictive covenants, the bill applies existing FCC policy used when dealing with State restrictions on antennas and towers to community association declarations.  The bill would, among other things, require community association “to permit erection of a station antenna structure at heights and dimensions sufficient to accommodate amateur service communications.”   H.R. 1301 would also apply to private office parks and essentially any privately owned land with use restrictions related to amateur radio antennas and towers.

 

The full text of the bill is available here: HR Bill 1301, United States Congress, Amateur Antennas and Towers.

Pet Weight Limits Don’t Apply to Emotional Support Animals in Florida’s Community Associations

Another example of the expanding scope of the Fair Housing Act, is the recently decided case of Bhogaita v. Altamonte Heights Condo. Ass’n, Inc., No. 13-12625 (11th Cir. Aug. 27, 2014). In Bhogaita a jury was persuaded the Altamonte Heights Condominium Association discriminated against the Plaintiff when it enforced its pet weight policy and demanded a removal of the plaintiff’s emotional support dog. The jury awarded Bhogaita $5,000 in damages, and the district court awarded Bhogaita more than $100,000 in attorneys’ fees. The association appealed both the judgment entered on the jury’s verdict and lost the appeal. Click the link below for the full text of the case

Bhogaita v. Altamonte Heights Condo. Ass’n, Inc., No. 13-12625 (11th Cir. Aug. 27, 2014)–Fair Housing Act-disability provisions-pet weight limit for emotional support dog failed to accommodate disability

 

 

 

Tech Company Contracts Have Unique Considerations

Understanding the difference between direct and contributory patent infringement is important when drafting contracts for a tech company.

 

As counsel to multiple technology companies, I am always baffled when a negotiating counterpart disputes there are multiple types of infringement, followed by a demand my client bears the burden “for any and all patent infringement” related to its product. In reality, if your client signs a contract accepting the onus for “any and all patent infringement”, your client (if its product is successful) will certainly be either defending or paying a third party’s cost for defending a patent infringement lawsuit. Instead, consider only agreeing to liability based on claims your client’s product “directly infringed a patent”. Being responsible only for claims alleging direct patent infringement, your client will not have to concern itself with having to defend claims contributory infringement. Contributory infringement usually rears its ugly head as part of a scatter shot pleading in which a lawyer names every party or person tangentially related to your product or its use. Patent infringement lawsuits are expensive. Limiting your clients exposure to these lawsuits is something to strongly consider when drafting a contract for a tech company client.

A good analysis of contributory infringement, in which the Court held contributory infringement does not exist without first having direct infringement is in the recent case of Limelight Networks, Inc. v. Akamai Technologies, Inc. -S. CT.- 2014 WL 2440536 (2014).

Fines for Florida Businesses That Don’t Allow Service of Process on Employees

 

As of July 1, 2014 Florida employers must allow the service of process on an employee or face a civil fine as high as $1,000.00.

 

The newly amended Florida Statute§ 48.03(1)(b) is as follows:

48.031 Service of process generally; service of witness subpoenas.—
(1)
(b) An employer, when contacted by an individual authorized to serve process, shall allow
the authorized individual to serve an employee in a private area designated by the employer.
An employer who fails to comply with this paragraph commits a noncriminal violation, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.

2014 Florida Community Association and Real Estate Legislative Update

 2014 Florida Community Association and Real Estate Legislative Update
By: Joshua Gerstin, Esq.

Click here to download .pdf version

Approximately 200 bills were introduced in the Florida legislature in 2014, 264 bills were passed by the legislature and Governor Rick Scott signed 158 into law. Many of these new laws will directly impact the operations of Florida’s community associations and the ownership of real estate for years to come.

 

HB 7307

Condominiums and Homeowner Associations.

Contains significant changes to the services a CAM (Community Association Property Manager) can perform.  The newly expanded CAM duties include:

  • Collecting delinquent assessments prior to the filing of a civil action.
  • Completing forms related created by statute or by a state agency.
  • Drafting letters of intended action, calculating and preparing certificates of assessments.
  • Estoppel letters.

Conspicuously absent from the new law are provisions lessening or mitigating the association’s liability if a CAM violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Instead, associations remain ultimately responsible. HB 7307 also provides:

  • New professional liability standards for CAMS
  • CAM contracts can only require Association’s provide limited indemnification to a CAM.
  • Lists conduct a CAM cannot be indemnified for such as grossly negligent, reckless or the derivation of an improper personal benefit.
  • Creates new forms in Chapters 718, 719 and 720 for notifying delinquent unit owners of their past due assessment balances.

 

SB 1524 Condominiums and Homeowner Associations.

  • Information Protection Act. Imposes new requirements on businesses, including community associations, to protect customer/members records containing the following information:
    • names;
    • social security numbers;
    • medical histories ( ex. medically necessary pets) and;
    • other identification numbers
      • Security breach reporting to the Department of Legal Affairs is required
      • Limits required disclosure by businesses of a breach if proper reporting, and other procedures to rectify the situation, are followed

 

HB 807, Condominium and Homeowner Associations.

  • Outgoing Board Members Relinquishment. Outgoing Board or committee members are required to relinquish all of the Association’s Official Records in their possession within five days after an election.
    • No “lame duck” provision for prior director whose term expires more than five days after an election.
    • Allows for civil penalties to be imposed by the Division for willful violation.
  • Member Directories. Owners can consent to information other than contact information being printed in an ownership directory. Associations can print a directory containing the name, parcel address and telephone numbers for each parcel owner without obtaining the owners’ consent. Individual owners may exclude his or her telephone numbers from the directory.
  • Board or Committee Meetings. Board or committee members appearing by telephone, videoconferencing or other real time video counts towards a quorum. The absent board or committee member appearing by telephone or video can also vote as if actually present.

 

HB 807, Condominium Associations Only

  • Abandoned Units: in addition to the reasons set forth in F.S. §718.111(5)(a), in which a condominium association has the irrevocable right of access to each unit. This legislation created a new statute F.S. §718. 111(5)(b)(1).
    • At the sole discretion of a condominium association’s board of directors a board may, after tendering the required notice, enter an abandoned unit to:
      • inspect the unit and adjoining common elements;
      • make repairs to the unit or to the common elements serving the unit;
      • repair or remediate the due to the presence of mold or similar deterioration;
      • turn on the power for the unit;
      • to otherwise maintain, preserve or protect the unit and its adjoining common elements.
  • Condominium Insurance Clarification: if an item is not damaged by an insurable or casualty event, the items repair or replacement costs are governed by the association’s Governing Documents.
  • Email. Condominium Board or committee members may communicate, but are prohibited from voting, via email.
  • Delinquencies. Condominium association’s that obtain title to a foreclosed property, or via a deed in lieu of foreclosure, from a delinquent owner are not considered a “previous owner” liable for past due assessments. Allows condominium associations that own foreclosed properties to seek the past due assessments of the prior owner from a new owner (subject to the limits of bank foreclosure, Safe Harbor statutes).
  • Condominium Optional Termination. A failed condominium termination plan cannot be sought again by joinder and consent or proposed at a meeting for 180 days after the date the termination plan failed.

 

HB 807, Homeowner Associations Only

  • Emergency Powers for Homeowners’ Associations: The bill incorporates the current emergency powers provisions in the Condominium Act into the Homeowners’ Association Act.
  • Allows homeowner associations to provide notice of adopted amendments via email.
  • In lieu of providing an actual copy of an amendment that passed, homeowner association owners can be notified the amendment passed along with the Official Records Book and Page and a notice a copy of the amendment is available at no charge to the owners. Allowable only if an exact copy of the amendment was sent to the owners prior to its passage. Amends F.S. §720.306(1)(b).
  • Requires HOA board and owner meetings to be held at handicap accessible locations only if requested by a physically handicapped person entitled to attend the meeting. This law does not apply to condominium associations. Amends F.S. §720.303(2)(a) & 720.306(1)(a).
  • Marketable Records Title Act (“MRTA”). Clarifies existing law. Newspapers do not have to publish a MRTA notice.

 

SB 440, Non-Residential Condominiums

  • Proxies can be used in voting for Board members of non-residential condominiums.
  • General proxies from owners in non-residential condominiums can now be used to vote on waiving or reducing the reserves, waiving financial reporting requirements or amending the Governing Documents.
  • Directors may now serve for an unlimited number of terms or years in a non-residential condominium.
  • If a unit is owned by more than one owner in a non-residential condominium, all owners can serve simultaneously on the board of directors.
  • Non residential condominiums directors do not have to take the “loyalty oath” certifying they are familiar with the Governing Documents and will discharge his/her duties in a fiduciary capacity.
  • Non-residential condominiums are excluded from the mandatory arbitration and mediation provision of Florida law.
  • Non-residential condominiums are excluded from the hurricane shutter provisions in the F.S. § 718.
  • Limitations on development phases meant to protect early purchasers of condominiums no longer apply to non-residential condominiums.

 

SB 356, Vacation Rentals.

  • The State of Florida reserved the exclusive right to regulate vacation rentals. Local municipalities can no longer pass ordinances that prohibit vacation rentals or that regulate the duration or frequency of vacation rentals. Applies only to ordinances adopted after June 1, 2011.

 

Real Estate.

  • Subsurface Mineral Rights. New disclosures are required when subsurface mineral rights are reserved by the Seller. Unwary buyers can now cancel contracts and statutory penalties exist for intentional violators.
  • Florida “GI Bill”. Tuition waivers veterans, military base upgrades and a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign, the Florida “GI Bill” intends to make Florida the most military-friendly state in the nation.

 

Insurance.

  • SB542 Flood Insurance.

o   Insurers may offer personal lines of residential flood insurance to residential customers (commercial condos or commercial residential excluded).

  • HB 1089 Citizen’s Insurance, Windstorm Coverage.

o   For wind only coverage for commercial lines residential condominiums, associations cannot have 50% of the units rented more than 8 times a year for less than 30 days.

  • SB 1672 Citizens Insurance.

o   Citizens Insurance may offer wind only policies and will discontinue certain multi-peril policies.

o   Insurance agents and public adjusters cannot obtain referral fees from an inspection company performing an insurance inspection for coverage.

o   Public adjusters cannot accept power of attorney that allows them to select the vendors and contractors to perform property repairs.

  • SB 708 Homeowner Insurance.

o   Insurers can no longer deny a claim for a misrepresentation in an insurance claim if the insurance policy has been in effect for 90 or more days.

o   A “Homeowners’ Claim Bill of Rights” was added enhancing protections afforded to personal line residential policyholders.

 

Service of Process HB 627.

  • Employer must permit service of process on employees.
  • $1000.00 fine on employer for not permitting service of process one employee.
  • Sheriff can rely on a levying creditor’s affidavit for the disbursement poof proceeds from the sale of levied property.

 

For information purposes only. For legal advice, please consult an attorney.

2014 Florida Community Association Legislative Update, Governor Scott signs HB 7037

Governor Scott signs HB 7307 containing significant changes to the services a CAM (property manager can perform).  HB7037 becomes effective July 1, 2014 and effects only Florida condominiums. The newly expanded CAM duties include:

  • Collecting delinquent assessments prior to the filing of a civil action.
  • Completing forms related created by statute or by a state agency.
  • Drafting letters of intended action, calculating and preparing certificates of assessments.
  • Estoppel letters.
  • Negotiating association contracts.
  • Drafting pre-arbitration demands.

The Bill also contains examples of new required forms.  The new forms are for use with collection of condominium association assessments. Conspicuously absent from the bill were provisions lessening or mitigating the common law liability if a CAM violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Instead condominium associations remain ultimately responsible .

The full text of the bill is available by clicking the following link: HB 7037-cam bill

Check back each day for more analysis as Governor Scott continues to sign or veto legislation affecting Florida’s community associations.