The Florida Legislature concluded its annual 60-day legislative session on Friday, March 8, 2024. This session covered many issues of importance to condo and community associations, including safety inspections, restrictions around pickup trucks and trailers, nominating committees and more.
 
The session focused on condo and HOA reform, vacation rentals, estoppel processes, and insurance issues.

Significant reforms were discussed, addressing transparency, governance, and structural integrity requirements. Notably, reforms include mandatory board member education, enhanced meeting requirements to attract more member participation, and stricter penalties for governance violations, including new rules around conflict of interest.

Below are the topics that were covered this legislative session around Florida condo and HOA laws. We strongly encourage board members to consult with your attorney to understand implications to your association.

  • Structural Integrity and Safety: Discussions highlighted the importance of structural integrity and safety and included the impact of new regulations stemming from past tragedies, underscoring the need for diligent compliance with inspection and maintenance requirements.

  • Mandatory Board Member Education: The legislation imposes new education requirements for condo and HOA board members, aiming to enhance governance by ensuring board members are well-informed about their responsibilities and legal requirements.

  • Insurance Legislation: A bill passed allowing surplus lines to offer coverage to non-homesteaded condominium units, reflecting ongoing concerns over insurance availability and affordability for community associations.

  • Vacation Rentals Legislation: A new bill passed regulating vacation rentals, aiming to create a balance between state preemption and local control while not affecting associations' ability to enforce their rental restrictions as per their governing documents.

  • Transparency and Accountability: The legislative updates emphasize transparency and accountability within community associations. New requirements are set for electronic voting, website maintenance, and the availability of official records to ensure members are well-informed and engaged, no matter the size of the association.

  • Estoppel Certificate Process: Attempts to significantly alter the estoppel certificate process were thwarted, preserving the current system, which allows associations or their agents to charge for the preparation of these crucial certificates for real estate transactions.

House Bill 1021

A reasonably comprehensive bill around condo/co-op associations - the most significant one in about 15 years – HB 1021 covers a lot of ground around governance and the practice of association management. HB 1021:

  • Requires that all community association managers (and their firms) return any and all association records within 20 business days of termination of service for any reason. That helps make transitions smoother if your association changes your property management company.

  • Provides conflict of interest disclosure requirements and a process for associations to follow when approving contracts with community association managers (CAMs) and property/association management firms, or a relative, that may present a conflict of interest. The requirements are similar to the conflicts of interest provisions for condominium associations and their officers and directors.

  • Expands the exemption of milestone inspections for 4-unit buildings that are 3 stories or less above ground.

  • Requires associations to notify unit owners that the structural integrity reserve study (SIRS) is available for inspection and copying within 45 days of its completion. The notice may be provided electronically.

  • Allows associations to temporarily pause or reduce reserve funding if the entire condominium building is uninhabitable due to a natural emergency, as determined by the local enforcement agency, upon the majority approval of the members.

  • Defines criminal penalties relating to official records of the association in the interest of greater transparency.

  • Mandates that associations of 10 or more units must, by law, meet quarterly and that 4 times each year the agenda must allow members to ask questions concerning the status of construction or repair projects, revenues and expenditures, and other condominium issues; and

  • States that the notice for meetings on assessments must include the cost and purpose of assessments and a copy of any proposed contract.

HB 1021 notably sets up new requirements for board member training and ongoing education:

  • Newly elected or appointed directors to submit both the written certification that they have read the association’s governing documents, will work to uphold the documents to the best of their ability and faithfully discharge their duties, and submit a certificate of completion of an approved condominium education course;

  • Four hours of training which includes instruction on milestone inspections, SIRS, elections, recordkeeping, financial literacy and transparency, levying of fines, and meeting requirements.

  • Directors must annually complete at least one hour of continuing education about recent changes to the condominium laws and rules during the past year; and

  • Association directors, excluding directors for a timeshare condominium, must certify, on a form provided by the division, that all directors have completed the required written certification and educational certificate requirements.

House Bill 1203

Another bill more specific to homeowners’ associations, HB 1203 is also comprehensive, touching on similar issues around board member education, records maintenance, transparency, meeting requirements and more. It also goes into detail on fines that associations can charge and when.
 
The bill requires homeowners’ associations to:

  • As of January 1, 2025, maintain a digital copy of specified official records for download on the association’s website or through an application on a mobile device (for associations with 100 or more parcels).

  • Maintain official records for at least 7 years unless the governing documents of the association require a longer period of time.

The bill requires associations or an architectural, construction improvement, or other similar committee to:

  • Provide written notice to the parcel owner of the rule or covenant relied upon when denying the request for the construction of a structure or other improvement;

  • Eliminate limits on the interior of a structure or require review of HVAC, refrigeration, heating, or ventilating system not visible from a parcel’s frontage, an adjacent parcel, common area, or community golf course, if a substantially similar system has been previously approved; and

  • Allow homeowners to install or display vegetable gardens and clotheslines in areas not visible from the frontage or an adjacent parcel, an adjacent common area, or a community golf course.

Associations must have a hearing before a committee to review a fine or suspension issued by the board. HB 1203, in part,

  • Requires the 14-day notice of the homeowner’s right to a hearing to be in writing;

  • Requires written findings related to the violation to be provided within seven days of the hearing, the date the fine must be paid or the suspension fulfilled;

  • Requires the date by which the fine must be paid to be at least 30 days after delivery of the written notice of the committee’s decision; or

  • Prohibits attorney fees and costs based on actions taken by the board before the date set for the fine to be paid.

  • Allows that, if a violation and the proposed fine or suspension is not cured or the fine is not paid, reasonable attorney fees and costs may be awarded to the association but may not begin to accrue until after the payment date of the fine or the appeal time has expired.

HB 1203 prohibits homeowners associations from issuing a fine or suspension for:

  • Leaving garbage receptacles at the curb or end of the driveway less than 24 hours before or after the designated garbage collection day or time.

  • Leaving holiday decorations or lights up longer than indicated in the governing documents, unless such decorations or lights are left up for longer than one week after the association provides written notice of the violation to the parcel owner.

Good news for pickup truck owners: HB 1203 says homeowners associations may not prohibit a homeowner or others from parking:

  • A pickup truck, in the property owner’s driveway or in any other area where they have a right to park.

  • A work vehicle, which is not a commercial motor vehicle, in the property owner’s driveway.

  • Their assigned first responder vehicle on public roads or rights-of-way within the homeowners association.

When it comes to board member education, HB 1203 provides greater education requirements for HOA board members than are required for condo association board members. The bill

  • Requires a newly elected or appointed HOA board member to, within 90 days after being elected or appointment, submit a certificate of having completed the educational curriculum.

  • Requires that the HOA board member educational curriculum include training relating to financial literacy and transparency, recordkeeping, levying of fines, and notice and meeting requirements.

  • Requires a board member of an HOA that has:

    • Fewer than 2,500 parcels to complete at least four hours of continuing education annually.

    • 2,500 or more parcels must complete at least eight hours of continuing education annually.

House Bill 1029

This bill creates a Condominium Pilot Program within the very popular My Safe Florida Home Program that continues to be available to single family homes. Single family homeowners may get the free inspection and apply for their grant now. After July 1, 2024, the site will be updated to include condominium associations.
 
For condo associations to participate they must meet the following criteria:

  • Be located within 15 miles of a coastline.

  • To apply for a FREE state inspection, the condominium association must receive approval by majority vote of the board of directors or a majority vote of the total voting interests of the association.

  • To apply for a grant, an association must receive both of the following:

    • Approval by a majority vote of the board of directors or a majority vote of the total voting interests of the association to participate in a mitigation inspection.

    • A unanimous vote of all unit owners within the building that is the subject of the mitigation grant.

  • The votes required may take place at the annual budget meeting or at a unit owner meeting called for the purpose. Before a vote may be taken, the association must provide the unit owners a clear disclosure of the program on a form created by the department.

  • The president and treasurer of the board must sign the disclosure form indicating that a copy of the form was provided to each unit owner of the association. The signed disclosure form and the minutes from the meeting at which the unit owners voted to participate in the program must be maintained as part of the official records.

  • Within 14 days after an affirmative vote to participate in the program, the association must provide written notice to all unit owners of the decision.

This bill has been signed by the Governor and will become law on July 1, 2024.

The session underscored the importance of community association members, boards, and managers staying informed and actively participating in the legislative process to advocate for favorable outcomes.

To hear a more comprehensive discussion of the legislative agenda, watch our webinar. Tony Kalliche, Esq., special counsel for FirstService Residential, and Travis Moore of Moore Relations, moderate a lively discussion among condo and community association law experts.
 



As part of our commitment to simplify life for our board members and residents, FirstService Residential will continue to advocate for associations before policymakers and regulators. We will also keep the board members and residents we serve updated on new Florida condo and HOA laws that affect their associations.
 
Note: As of the date of publication of this article, unless otherwise noted, the legislation discussed herein is awaiting action by the Governor.

Tuesday April 30, 2024