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.

Owner Not Covered for Exploding Corpse in Palm Beach County, Florida Condominium

A decomposing body that explodes does not give rise to coverage for explosions and personal property damage…

Full article here :http://nypost.com/2014/04/27/neighbor-must-pay-for-damage-caused-by-an-exploding-corpse/

2013 Florida Community Association Legislative Update

Rick-Scott-signs-bill-April-22

The past legislative session was an extremely busy one for both homeowner and condominium associations.  Initial legislative proposals ranged from an entire rewrite of Chapter 720 to a depository scheme to collect assessments that would have been a disaster. In the end, at least for this past legislative session, Florida’s community associations avoided disaster.  Most, but not all, of the recently passed Florida legislation affecting Florida’s community association’s are reasonable. The hardest hit group in this year’s legislative session is by far homeowner developers. The full text of each passed bill can be found at: www.flsenate.gov; www.myfloridahouse.com; and www.leg.state.fl.us.

Homeowner Associations

Officers and Directors

F.S. § 720.3033 Officers and Directors.- This past legislative session there many changes to the laws governing homeowner association officers and directors.  Both Homeowner association Boards of Directors and their property managers should immediately update themselves on these new legislative changes to avoid unknowingly running afoul of the law. The underlined portion below is the amended text of F.S. § 720.3033:

720.3033  Officers and directors.—

(1)(a)  Within 90 days after being elected or appointed to the board, each director shall certify in writing to the secretary of the association 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. Within 90 days after being elected or appointed to the board, in lieu of such written certification, the newly elected or appointed director may submit a certificate of having satisfactorily completed the educational curriculum administered by a division-approved education provider within 1 year before or 90 days after the date of election or appointment.

(b)  The written certification or educational certificate is valid for the uninterrupted tenure of the director on the board. A director who does not timely file the written certification or educational certificate shall be suspended from the board until he or she complies with the requirement. The board may temporarily fill the vacancy during the period of suspension.

(c)  The association shall retain each director’s written certification or educational certificate for inspection by the members for 5 years after the director’s election. However, the failure to have the written certification or educational certificate on file does not affect the validity of any board action.

(2)  If the association enters into a contract or other transaction with any of its directors or a corporation, firm, association that is not an affiliated homeowners’ association, or other entity in which an association director is also a director or officer or is financially interested, the board must:

(a)  Comply with the requirements of s. 617.0832.

(b)  Enter the disclosures required by s. 617.0832 into the written minutes of the meeting.

(c)  Approve the contract or other transaction by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the directors present.

(d)  At the next regular or special meeting of the members, disclose the existence of the contract or other transaction to the members. Upon motion of any member, the contract or transaction shall be brought up for a vote and may be canceled by a majority vote of the members present. If the members cancel the contract, the association is only liable for the reasonable value of goods and services provided up to the time of cancellation and is not liable for any termination fee, liquidated damages, or other penalty for such cancellation.

(3)  An officer, director, or manager may not solicit, offer to accept, or accept any good or service of value for which consideration has not been provided for his or her benefit or for the benefit of a member of his or her immediate family from any person providing or proposing to provide goods or services to the association. If the board finds that an officer or director has violated this subsection, the board shall immediately remove the officer or director from office. The vacancy shall be filled according to law until the end of the director’s term of office. However, an officer, director, or manager may accept food to be consumed at a business meeting with a value of less than $25 per individual or a service or good received in connection with trade fairs or education programs.

(4)  A director or officer charged by information or indictment with a felony theft or embezzlement offense involving the association’s funds or property is removed from office. The board shall fill the vacancy according to general law until the end of the period of the suspension or the end of the director’s term of office, whichever occurs first. However, if the charges are resolved without a finding of guilt or without acceptance of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, the director or officer shall be reinstated for any remainder of his or her term of office. A member who has such criminal charges pending may not be appointed or elected to a position as a director or officer.

(5)  The association shall maintain insurance or a fidelity bond for all persons who control or disburse funds of the association. The insurance policy or fidelity bond must cover the maximum funds that will be in the custody of the association or its management agent at any one time. As used in this subsection, the term “persons who control or disburse funds of the association” includes, but is not limited to, persons authorized to sign checks on behalf of the association, and the president, secretary, and treasurer of the association. The association shall bear the cost of any insurance or bond. If annually approved by a majority of the voting interests present at a properly called meeting of the association, an association may waive the requirement of obtaining an insurance policy or fidelity bond for all persons who control or disburse funds of the association.

Homeowner Association Members

 

720.306 Meeting of the Members; voting and election procedures; amendments —Nominations from the floor at Annual Meetings are no longer required and an election is not required unless there are more candidates than vacancies. Further, all members are now required to receive amendments to the governing documents within 30 days of their passage.

720.303 (5) Inspection and Copying of Records. Official records must be maintained for at least 7 years and have to be made available to parcel owners for inspection and copying within 45 miles of the community or within the county in which the association is located. The Association has 10 business days after receipt by the board or its designee of a written request. Records can be made available electronically. Owners can scan or photograph the records at no charge (if they use their scanner or camera). Copying rates and personnel charges were also amended.

(5)        INSPECTION AND COPYING OF RECORDS.—The official records shall be maintained within the state for at least 7 years and shall be made available to a parcel owner for inspection or photocopying within 45 miles of the community or within the county in which the association is located within 10 business days after receipt by the board or its designee of a written request

The association shall allow a member or his or her authorized representative to use a portable device, including a smartphone, tablet, portable scanner, or any other technology capable of scanning or taking photographs, to make an electronic copy of the official records in lieu of providing the member or his or her authorized representative with a copy of such records. The association may not charge a fee to a member or his or her authorized representative for such use of a portable device.

The association may impose fees to cover the costs of providing copies of the official records, including, without limitation, the costs of copying and the costs required for personnel to retrieve and copy the records if the time spent retrieving and copying the records exceeds one- half hour and if the personnel costs do not exceed $20 per hour. Personnel costs may not be charged for records requests that result in the copying of 25 or fewer pages.

Assessment Collection

 

F.S. § 720.3085 Payment for assessments; lien claims. The most positive and important change this legislative session was legislation designed to correct or overrule the Court’s decision in the case of Aventura Management, LLC v. Spiaggia Ocean Condominium Association, Inc. HB 7119 amends F.S.§ 720.3085 and allows Florida homeowner associations to collect assessments, that were past due upon its ownership of a home, from a subsequent owner. The underlined portion below is the amended text:  

720.3085         Payment for assessments; lien claims.—

(2)

(b)        A parcel owner is jointly and severally liable with the previous parcel owner for all unpaid assessments that came due up to the time of transfer of title. This liability is without prejudice to any right the present parcel owner may have to recover any amounts paid by the present owner from the previous owner. For the purposes of this paragraph, the term “previous owner” shall not include an association that acquires title to a delinquent property through foreclosure or by deed in lieu of foreclosure. The present parcel owner’s liability for unpaid assessments is limited to any unpaid assessments that accrued before the association acquired title to the delinquent property through foreclosure or by deed in lieu of foreclosure.

F.S. § 468.436 CAM Disciplinary Proceedings.  This law was amended to classify a Community Association Manager’s violation of either Chapt. 720, 719 or 718 as a violation subject to a disciplinary proceeding by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. For the overwhelming amount of law abiding Community Association Managers, this legislative amendment should not be a cause for concern. The underlined portion below is the amended text of F.S.§ 468.436 (7):

Violating any provision of chapter 718, chapter 719, or chapter 720 during the course of performing community association management services pursuant to a contract with a community association as defined in s. 468.431(1).

Homeowner Association Developers

F.S.§ 720.303 (6)(d) Budgets.  If a homeowner association developer elects to maintain a reserve account for the HOA, the developer’s budget must designate the particular purpose or use of the funds.  The underlined portion below is the amended text of F.S.§ 720.303 (6)(d):

(d) An association is deemed to have provided for reserve accounts if reserve accounts have been initially established by the developer or if the membership of the association affirmatively elects to provide for reserves. If reserve accounts are established by the developer, the budget must designate the components for which the reserve accounts may be used. If reserve accounts are not initially provided by the developer, the membership of the association may elect to do so upon the affirmative approval of a majority of the total voting interests of the association.  .  .

F.S. § 720.307 Transition of association control in a community —Added to the threshold for an “automatic transition” to member control are a developer’s abandonment of its assessment, maintenance or construction responsibilities or if the developer files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, enters receivership or loses title to a common area through a foreclosure.  The underlined portion below is the amended text of F.S. § 720.307:

720.307 Transition of association control in a community.—

With respect to homeowners’ associations:

(1)        Members other than the developer are entitled to elect at least a majority of the members of the board of directors of the homeowners’ association when the earlier of the following events occurs:

. . .

c)  Upon the developer abandoning or deserting its responsibility to maintain and complete the amenities or infrastructure as disclosed in the governing documents. There is a rebuttable presumption that the developer has abandoned and deserted the property if the developer has unpaid assessments or guaranteed amounts under s. 720.308 for a period of more than 2 years;

(d)  Upon the developer filing a petition seeking protection under chapter 7  of the federal Bankruptcy Code;

(e)  Upon the developer losing title to the property through a foreclosure action or the transfer of a deed in lieu of foreclosure, unless the successor owner has accepted an assignment of developer rights and responsibilities first arising after the date of such assignment; or

(f)  Upon a receiver for the developer being appointed by a circuit court and not being discharged within 30 days after such appointment, unless the court determines within 30 days after such appointment that transfer of control would be detrimental to the association or its members.

 

F.S. § 720.307  Pre-transition Board of Directors. The amendment to F.S. §720.307 also lowered the threshold for a member to serve as a director on the pre-transition Board of Directors. Members, other than the developer, are allowed to elect at least one non-developer related member to the pre-transition Board of Directors if 50% of the parcels in all phases have been conveyed to the members.


F.S.
§ 720.3075 Prohibited clauses in association documents–Developers. At

any point pre-transition of control (not the 90% conveyed mark) a developer’s unilateral amendment to the Governing Documents will be subject to scrutiny as to its reasonableness. No longer considered reasonable or allowable are “ . . .amendments to the governing documents that are arbitrary, capricious, or in bad faith; destroy the general plan of development; prejudice the rights of existing nondeveloper members to use and enjoy the benefits of common property; or materially shift economic burdens from the developer to the existing nondeveloper members.”

F.S. § 720.303 (13) Reporting Requirements — Homeowner associations are now required to register with the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes.  Whether this will lead to enhanced regulation similar to condominiums, and its associated higher cost of compliance, is yet to be seen.  The legislation is due to expire in 2016.

F.S. §720.303(7) Financial Reports. Mandatory financial report thresholds for homeowners’ association were increased as follows:

  1. Compilation increased from $100,000 to $150,000.
  2. A financial review increased from $200,000 to $300,000; and
  3. An audit increased from  $400,000 to $500,000.

F.S. §720.303(10)(g) Directors: Recall.  A petition to challenge a homeowner’s association failure to act on a recall petition must be filed within 60 days from the end of the Board of Directors five day review period.

F.S. §720.305(2)(a) Suspensions. The suspension of  an owner’s common area use rights cannot  extend to the  common elements needed to access the unit, utility services to the unit, parking spaces, and elevators.

F.S. §720.306(1)(d) Amendments: Mortgages. After July 1, 2013, mortgage holders rights to approve or disapprove of amendment is limited to a negative notice and limited rights to contest.

F.S. §720.306(6) Meetings: Speaking.  Advanced notice is not required for a homeowner association member to speak at a Board of Directors’ meeting.

 F.S. §399.02(9) Elevators. The  July 1, 2015 deadline for retrofitting elevators  is removed. However, certain renovations to an elevator may require  compliance even in the event of a replacement or major modifications are required for compliance.

Condominium Associations Only

 

 Financials. F.S. §718.111(13).  A condominium developer is required to provide financial two years after recording of the  surveyor’s certificate.

Budgets. F.S. §718.1112(2)(f).   Up until the second fiscal year a condominium developer  can vote for reserves up until the second fiscal year after recording of a surveyor’s certificate.

Transition. F.S. §718.301(1). Transition can occur as late as seven years after the recording of the surveyor’s certificate.  without an accompanying assignment of developer rights.

Hurricane Protection.  F.S. §718.113(5)(a).  A condominium association’s board of directors has the authority to install hurricane resistant protection extends to doors and other items.  authority to install additional hurricane resistant protection is extended to include doors and other similar  hurricane protection. A code compliant unit entitles the unit owner to a credit for assessments levied related to installation of hurricane protection

Suspensions. F.S. §718.303(3). The suspension of  an owner’s common area use rights cannot  extend to the  common elements needed to access the unit, utility services to the unit, parking spaces, and elevators.

Insurance.   F.S.  §718.111(11)(g)2.   If a condominium owner does not undertake required work, the association may do so and assess the owner for the expense.

Records. F.S. §718.111(12). Condominium association members may use their own equipment, without charge, to copy Association records. Excluded records from disclosure includes personnel records of the Association and its management company. Absent a written request for exclusion, Homeowner association’s can print a community directory with each member’s name, address and telephone number, unless the member request to be excluded.

Financial  Reports.    §718.111(13).  Mandatory financial report thresholds for condominium associations were increased:

  1.      Compilation increased from $100,000 to $150,000.
  2.      A financial review increased from $200,000 to $300,000; and
  3.      An audit increased from  $400,000 to $500,000.

 

Directors: Terms & Qualifications.  §718.112(2)(d)2.  Authorization for condominium association directors staggered terms can be authorized by an association’s articles of incorporation, as well as tits by-laws. Any owner that owes money to the association is ineligible to run for the Board of Directors and his/her name should not be on the ballot.

Directors: Recall. §718.112(2)(j). A petition to challenge a condominium association failure to act on a recall petition must be filed within 60 days from the end of the Board of Directors five day review period. The challenge can be through arbitration.

 

Stay Informed

As more legislation is introduced and existing legislation is applied by the courts and governmental authorities.

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***Updated with Florida’s 2013 Legislative Amendments, Transition of Control of a Florida Community Association

Transition of Control of a Florida Community Association  

Click here to download this article as a .PDF

A wise man once said “transitions are never easy”. A wise lawyer once said “transition of control of a Florida community association are never easy and can be disastrous”.

Following is a general list of items for a community association to be aware of as they proceed towards the important process of the transition of control from a developer controlled association to that of a member controlled association. The following information is intended as general information and not legal advice. For legal advice an attorney must be consulted.

We accumulated the following information based upon our experience in representing many community associations and have found the following tasks and information is important for an association’s members to undertake and review prior to signing a release with the developer.

1.    Interviewing of banks. Immediately after the transition the association should open new bank accounts.  The forms necessary to open the appropriate accounts should be secured now to avoid undue delay.

2.    Begin interviewing professionals, which should in the very least include:

a.    Accountant;

b.    Property manager;

c.    Attorney; and

d.    Engineer (with experience in community association transitions).

3.    If the post office is diverting the mail sent to the association to an address of the developer, secure the forms to have the mail sent directly to the association.

4.    Secure from the Florida Secretary of State a statement of change for the Registered Agent.  This document can be downloaded from www.sunbiz.org.

5.    A form known as “Request for Copy of Tax Form” should be retrieved from the Internal Revenue Service. The completion and eventual submission of this form will enable the association to obtain the previous three (3) years of tax returns after the transition of control is complete.

6.    Begin identifying potential candidates for Board of Directors’ positions.

Following are a list of items that we attempt to receive from a developer during the
transition period:

a.    A full and complete copy of the association’s Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions, Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws and Rules and Regulations;

b.    The financial records of the association from the date of incorporation through the present date;

c.    Access to, and control of, the association’s funds that remain in the developer’s bank accounts for the association;

d.    Copies of all deeds to common property owned by the association;

e.    Copies of the minute books from all of the meetings held by the Director;

f.    Bills of sale, or receipts for, any of the association’s tangible personal property;

g.    Copy of all contracts to which the association is presently a party.  Such contracts typically include landscaping, property management, accounting, janitorial, etc.;

h.    Name, address and telephone numbers of all contractors and/or employees that are presently being employed by the association;

i.    Copies of any and all insurance policies that are presently in effect;

j.    A complete list of all current home owners along with their address, telephone number and, if applicable, section or lot numbers;

k.    Any and all warranties the association might possess for items such as air conditioning, the pool, etc;

l.    Any and all permits issued by governmental authorities that regulate the association from the present date relating back to approximately one year prior;

m.    Any leases for the common areas to which the association is a party;

n.    Copy of any master keys or keys utilized for the common areas;

o.    An up to date ledger sheet for each owner and any assessment payments that are in arrears as well as a full payment history for each owner; and

p.    The “Official Records” of the association  Florida Statute §720.303(4), lists the official records that an association is required to maintain for a period of seven (7) years.  The developer is also under this duty and should have these documents in its possession.  I have enclosed for your review a copy of this statute.

 

***2013 Florida Legislative Amendments

 

F.S.§ 720.303 (6)(d) Budgets.  If a homeowner association developer elects to maintain a reserve account for the HOA, the developer’s budget must designate the particular purpose or use of the funds.  The underlined portion below is the amended text of F.S.§ 720.303 (6)(d):

(d) An association is deemed to have provided for reserve accounts if reserve accounts have been initially established by the developer or if the membership of the association affirmatively elects to  provide for   reserves. If reserve accounts are established by the developer, the budget must designate the components for which the reserve accounts may be used. If reserve accounts are not initially provided by the developer, the membership of the association may elect to do so upon the affirmative approval of a majority of the total voting interests of the association.  .  .

F.S. § 720.307 Transition of association control in a community —Added to the threshold for an “automatic transition” to member control are a developer’s abandonment of its assessment, maintenance or construction responsibilities or if the developer files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, enters receivership or loses title to a common area through a foreclosure.  The underlined portion below is the amended text of F.S. § 720.307:

720.307 Transition of association control in a community.—

With respect to homeowners’ associations:

(1)        Members other than the developer are entitled to elect at least a majority of the members of the board of directors of the homeowners’ association when the earlier of the following events occurs:

. . .

c)  Upon the developer abandoning or deserting its responsibility to maintain and complete the amenities or infrastructure as disclosed in the governing documents. There is a rebuttable presumption that the developer has abandoned and deserted the property if the developer has unpaid assessments or guaranteed amounts under s. 720.308 for a period of more than 2 years;

(d)  Upon the developer filing a petition seeking protection under chapter 7  of the federal Bankruptcy Code;

(e)  Upon the developer losing title to the property through a foreclosure action or the transfer of a deed in lieu of foreclosure, unless the successor owner has accepted an assignment of developer rights and responsibilities first arising after the date of such assignment; or

(f)  Upon a receiver for the developer being appointed by a circuit court and not being discharged within 30 days after such appointment, unless the court determines within 30 days after such appointment that transfer of control would be detrimental to the association or its members.

 

F.S. § 720.307  Pre-transition Board of Directors. The amendment to F.S. §720.307 also lowered the threshold for a member to serve as a director on the pre-transition Board of Directors. Members, other than the developer, are allowed to elect at least one non-developer related member to the pre-transition Board of Directors if 50% of the parcels in all phases have been conveyed to the members.

F.S. § 720.3075 Prohibited clauses in association documents–Developers. At any point pre-transition of control (not the 90% conveyed mark) a developer’s unilateral amendment to the Governing Documents will be subject to scrutiny as to its reasonableness. No longer considered reasonable or allowable are “ . . .amendments to the governing documents that are arbitrary, capricious, or in bad faith; destroy the general plan of development; prejudice the rights of existing nondeveloper members to use and enjoy the benefits of common property; or materially shift economic burdens from the developer to the existing nondeveloper members.”

The above list is not exhaustive; however, by beginning to request these items the association will be in a better position as the transition progresses.   Additionally, it is recommended the association accept the transition of the developer via the resignation of developer members of the Board and then placement of owner member directors after an election.  At that time, developers often request the association sign a release.  By signing a release the association will waive any and all rights that it might have to claims for construction defects and/or misappropriation of funds.  As such, the association should have the transition of control occur and then retain the services of an accountant, an attorney and an engineer.  These professionals will perform what is commonly known as “due diligence”.  Without hiring these professionals there is no way the association can truly know whether or not they are aware of every issue that remains outstanding, or liability incurred by the developer, that is now an association liability.

Certain times the above referenced reports issued by these professionals have minor problems that are easily settled with the developer. Other times, there are hidden problems that would have surely gone unnoticed if it were not for the diligent work of these professionals.  Either way, the association’s Board of Directors has a fiduciary duty to its members and should in the very least understand the present state of the association before signing a release with the developer.

After the reports from the professionals are returned to the association, the Board of Directors should attempt to informally negotiate with the developer for any repairs or funds they believe are owed.  This informal approach should involve keeping the association’s counsel informed as to its status and, if necessary, the review of documents.  If the association is successful in its negotiations, the attorney for the association, as well as that of the developer, can draft the final documents.  If the negotiations are not successful, the attorney for the association should still attempt to settle the matter with the developer’s attorney with a set time period for completion.  It is always better to try and settle for a fair amount then filing a lawsuit.  However, sometimes it is unavoidable and a lawsuit is necessary

2013 Florida Legislative Update

Rick+Scott+signs+bill+April+22

The 2013 Florida Legislature was very busy this past session. Many of the bills that passed and are awaiting Governor Scott’s signature or veto will directly impact your business. Unfortunately, there has been little or no press coverage of these newly enacted laws.  Click here to view a list of the actions taken by Governor Scott so far and the upcoming bills awaiting a signature or a veto. Keep in mind,  Governor Scott has 15 days to act on bills presented to him after the close of the annual legislative session. After the 15 day deadline expires and the Governor has not taken any action (sign or veto) , the bill automatically becomes law.

2013 Florida Governor Scott action taken bills

You can view the full text of each bill that passed the Florida Legislature here.

 

 

New Florida Supreme Court Ruling Should Alert Businesses to Review Their Contracts, Now

Although businesses should review their standard “form” contracts annually with their attorney, many do not.  Most often changes to year’s old contracts occur after a deal has gone bad or an expensive lawsuit has been lost. Hidden “time bombs” await businesses in the form of “the law has changed since we first used this contract” or ” this provision has not been enforced by a court in years”.  However, every so often news of a court case, ruling or new statute froths to the top and successful businesses take the necessary steps to adapt their businesses and their contracts accordingly. The recent Florida Supreme Court decision in  Tiara Condominium Assoc. v. Marsh & McClennan Companies, Inc. (SC10-1022) should be one of those instances.

In the Tiara Condominium case, the Florida Supreme Court severely limited the “Economic Loss Rule”. This means business that may not have been able to sue for breach of contract, because the actual contract said they could not (clauses limiting certain damages or liability, etc.) have a second chance.  Lawsuits seeking damages for tort claims like negligence can now be filed even though a claim for breach of contract, on the same set of facts, is not available.

To businesses that update their contracts regularly, the court’s decision restricting the confusing and often sloppily applied Economic Loss Rule will be welcome. These businesses will have their attorneys review their contracts for the best way to adapt to the court’s ruling.  Most likely contract provisions regarding liability and damage limitations, indemnity, insurance and dispute resolution will be modified. Unfortunately, for many businesses the effect of the court’s decision will only be known at a later, much more expensive, date.

 

Florida’s First District Court of Appeal: Florida’s Hotel Tax Does Not Apply to Online Travel Agencies

In a 2-1 decision upholding a lower-court ruling, the Florida First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee said yesterday that the Tourist Development Act doesn’t apply to what a company collects from customers who reserve rooms online. The companies “are simply conduits through which consumers can compare hotels and rates and book a reservation at the chosen hotel,” the court ruled. . . click here for full article

Florida Supreme Court Hears Online Hotel Tax Appeal

Millions of dollars are at stake in the case being considered by three judges of the 1st District Court of Appeal, but any ruling they make is likely to be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court by the losing side. Roberto “Bobby” Martinez, a former U.S click here for full article

Being Vigilant With Community Association Guest Restrictions – U.S. Senator Menendez Donor Violated So Fla. Condo’s Docs by Leasing to Alleged Call Girl

Sometimes you just never know how truly important it is to enforce your community association’s guest policy.

Click here for full article.