Florida HOA Laws and Updates in 2020

The Florida Legislature was scheduled to end its 60-day session on March 13, but the looming coronavirus threat prompted a one-week extension to finalize the budget. When the session adjourned on March 19, more than 3,500 pieces of legislation had been filed, including roughly 40 community association-related bills. In the end, 5 community association-related bills were passed by the House and Senate, and will be presented to Governor Ron DeSantis for final approval. This includes bills related to Florida HOA laws that may impact your board.

Some of the community association-related legislation this year included adjusting the provisions related to emotional support animals (ESA) to curtail abuse of online ESA certificates; boosting Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA) amounts from $100,000 to $200,000; clarifying fireworks usage; protecting the right to park law enforcement vehicles at home; and nullifying discriminatory language still found in certain covenants and Florida HOA laws. 

As in previous years, FirstService Residential was a leading voice in the discussion and debate surrounding vacation rentals, protecting associations’ rights to manage the complex issue of rental rights and restrictions.

FirstService Residential worked diligently to inform policymakers of community association needs, to promote beneficial legislation and to offer key insight on how bills could potentially negatively impact community associations. FirstService Residential was involved every step of the way – actively monitoring proposed legislation, educating bill sponsors and advocating on behalf of community associations.

This Legislative Alert was created to help you, the Board of Directors of the community associations we manage, navigate the new legislation that may impact day-to-day operations at your community. Ideally, these insights will help you make informed decisions about what’s best for your community. It is important for you to seek appropriate guidance on how these Florida HOA laws affect your specific association from your association’s attorney.

Florida HOA Bills That Passed in the 2020 Session

FirstService Residential collaborated with legislators, an industry coalition of property management companies and other stakeholders to advocate for the passage of positive policy changes that protect community associations. The following bills have passed both the House and Senate, but still require Governor DeSantis’ signature (or failure to timely veto same) before they become law. If they receive final approval, these new laws will take effect on July 1, 2020, unless otherwise noted.

Emotional Support Animals - HB 209/SB 1084

FirstService Residential successfully promoted passage of SB 1084, which ultimately protects individuals who need support animals and penalizes providers who provide false documentation to verify the need for an emotional support animal. The bill clarifies and specifies the type of documentation used to verify an ESA, helping to eliminate gaming the system through online certificates.

The bill also:

  • Updates the definition of an emotional support animal (ESA) to reflect the same terminology used by HUD in its new guidance publication.
  • Expands the type of allowable documentation that can be used to verify the need for an ESA to include determination of a disability or proof of disability services, as required by the new HUD guidelines.
  • Adds language to allow telemedicine providers and similarly licensed providers in other states to provide ESA documentation so long as they are acting within their scope of practice and have knowledge of an individual’s disability.
  • Adds language that explicitly states certificates or other items purchased online for a fee do not, on their own, constitute reliable verification that an individual has a disability. This will help root out the abuse that is happening with online certificate mills.
  • Allows providers who present false documentation to be punished under Florida law.

Florida Insurance Guaranty Association –HB 529/SB 898

Since its inception almost 50 years ago, the FIGA limit for condominium units has been $100,000 per unit in a building. HB 529 was passed in the current legislative session, after years of effort, raising the limit from $100,000 to $200,000 per unit.

FIGA is similar to FDIC-insured bank accounts. If something happens to make your bank insolvent, your deposits are insured by the FDIC up to $250,000. In Florida, if there was a major storm and the insurance company is unable to pay claims, FIGA steps in to pay them. In the very unlikely and unfortunate case there was a total loss, FIGA would multiply the $100,000 times the number of building units to calculate the total limit paid. In the current economy, that would likely leave associations significantly short. HB 529 raises that limit from $100,000 to $200,000 per unit.

Again, this would only be triggered by a loss event that leaves an association’s insurance carrier unable to pay claims and requires FIGA’s involvement.

Discriminatory Association Language - SB 374

This piece of legislation contains a provision which clarifies that discriminatory language on covenants is not enforceable and declared null and void. It also helps remove outdated, unenforceable discriminatory housing language in some community association documents by board action alone. This bill has not yet been approved by the governor and takes effect immediately upon becoming part of Florida HOA laws.

Law Enforcement Vehicles - SB 476

This bill prohibits associations from restricting law enforcement officers from parking their vehicles in a community. An association cannot deny a law enforcement officer from parking their vehicle in their assigned space or at their home. The bill defines what a law enforcement vehicle is so as not to be overly broad. It is not intended to allow vehicles such as equipment trailers and trucks.

This bill was signed by the governor and has become law, effective immediately.

Fireworks - SB 140

This bill allows for the use of fireworks on 3 designated holidays – New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July. There is a provision that states a homeowners association may restrict or deny the use of fireworks, including on these designated holidays, only if there is a properly approved and executed restriction found in a declaration of covenants and not merely through a rule created by the Board of Directors. This bill does not apply to condominiums or cooperatives.

This bill has been signed by the governor and is effective now.

Florida HOA Bills That Did Not Pass in the 2020 Session

Vacation Rentals - HB 1011/SB 1128

While neither of the bills pertaining to vacation rentals passed, FirstService Residential, with the engagement of many associations, was instrumental in amending language in both bills to protect community associations’ rights to shape their own short-term rental policies. As a result of our collective efforts, we were able to secure the protection of community associations regardless if the bill passed. Moving forward, we will be in a stronger place to tackle the legislation if the bill is refiled.

The coronavirus is the largest health crisis the world has seen in a long time. It is changing the world and how we operate our day-to-day lives. As your trusted property management partner, we are here to support you during this unprecedented time. We strive to provide you with the most up-to-date information on all matters that could impact your association operations and the lives of your residents, including federal legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will continue to work with industry stakeholders on important legislative matters concerning the communities in our care. We thank you for allowing FirstService Residential to deliver exceptional service and solutions to your community and residents.

The information contained herein is not intended to be, and should not be, construed or used as legal advice. The contents are intended for general information purposes only, and you are urged to consult with counsel concerning the effect any proposed legislation may have on your association or other legal questions you may have.