By Deborah Goonan
I can’t say I’m surprised, but I am thoroughly disgusted by the nature of HOA legislation that has passed the 2015 Legislative session, despite the fact that the FL House threw in the towel 3 days early. Given the hostile nature of other pending bills, it was probably a blessing in disguise.
Here are some highlights of what HOA-related bills passed and what failed: (Bills have been signed by Governor Scott, and are now the law in Florida)
CCFJ-backed SB 1308/HB 1263, the bill that would have authorized limited state oversight of HOAs similar to that available to condo owners, died before ever making it to a committee, for the second year in a row. (CCFJ, Cyber Citizens for Justice, is a Florida non-profit organzation that provides education and advocacy on behalf of owners living in Homeowners’ Associations)
SB 611 / HB 736, a bill that would have limited fees charged for estoppels, and that was hotly debated and opposed by management, collection companies and Association law firms, effectively died when the session was dismissed early. That means business as usual. Fee gouging and hitting buyers at closing with last minute with extra closing costs will continue for at least another year.
HB 791 passed 98-17 in the House and unanimously in the Senate. The bill will extend the Distressed Condominium Act (DCA) for two more years, until June 30, 2018. The DCA allows investors to “bulk buy” condos for rehab and resale, but significantly limits bulk owner liability for construction defects and also allows investors to waive funding of reserves until each unit is sold. The DCA has played a key role in creating perverse incentives for investors to take over condo Boards and force termination upon remaining owners, who have in turn been forced to sell for a fraction of what they paid for their units several years ago.
The bill also specifies that official records now include only “written records,” effectively eliminating audio or videotapes among the records HOAs must retain for at least 7 years. Also in this bill: if you are a tenant, and your landlord owns multiple units, but owes any financial obligation pertaining to even ONE unit, the HOA may suspend your privileges to use the recreational amenities and common areas until the owner is current, even if your unit is not directly tied to a fine or delinquent assessment.
Also buried in this homeowner-hostile bill is a carefully crafted provision that will allow HOAs governed under Statute 720 to issue fines exceeding $100 per violation…
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