By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities email@example.com
Legislative Alert for Florida homeowners: Update (April 8, 2023)
Florida state Legislators continue to debate bills to regulate HOAs. However, some recent amendments to a Senate bill have watered down the intended consumer protections that were part of the original draft.
On April 4, the Senate Regulated Industries Committee substituted a strike all amendment to SB 1114. The current version of SB 1114 no longer includes provisions regarding HOA fines, including language that would have prohibited fines from becoming a lien against an owner’s property.
Also removed from SB 1114:
- a requirement for a written notice of a violation sent to the owner’s preferred address or email, as well as the owner’s tenant, if applicable.
- If a property owner takes action to resolve the violation prior to the required opportunity for HOA hearing, the HOA can NOT fine the owner, or assess any legal costs to the owner.
- If the violation is cured within 30 days from the date the HOA fine is approved by a committee and the board, the fine is reduced by 50%, and no legal fees are billable to the owner.
- A requirement that an owner’s payment to the HOA be applied first to the fine owed. (Not to late fees, collection costs and attorney fees.)
Fortunately, a companion bill, HB 919 still includes all of these key amendments to Statute 720, the Homeowners Association Act. Florida property owners: contact your House and Senate representatives, to let them know you support the House version, which offers greater protections for owners of property in HOA-governed communities.
Other HOA regulations and consumer protections
On a more positive note, at the present time, both HB 919 and SB 1114 still include several other valuable protections for homeowners.
For starters, both the House and Senate bills require the removal of any HOA board members who are under investigation for, or who have been convicted of, forgery of ballots, theft or embezzlement of HOA funds, refusal to fulfill records requests, illegal destruction of HOA records, or obstruction of justice. (If the accused board is exonerated, the member is reinstated on the board.)
HB 919 and SB 1114 would also prohibit comingling of an owner’s deposit for a construction project with any of the HOA’s accounts. In other words, the HOA would be prohibited from using money from insurance claims or homeowner or buyer deposits to pay ordinary operating expenses of the Association, or any other HOA expense.
Both bills would make it a crime for any HOA board member or HOA manager to accept kickbacks. It would be a misdemeanor for kickbacks valued at less than $1,000; a felony of the third degree for kickbacks valued at $1,000 or more.
On a similar note, both HB 919 and SB 1114 still include a requirement that HOAs disclose all conflicts of interest to members, at least 14 days prior to awarding a contract, or conducting a membership vote.
But — this is important — without reining in the power of HOA boards to fine, and to turn those fines into property liens, the rest of these consumer protections are essentially meaningless. Any effort by homeowners to object to or enforce crimes or conflicts of interest will certainly be curtailed by abusive fines against any whistleblowers.
This is why, in my opinion, the power of HOA boards to fine, without judicial due process, must be strictly limited, or, better yet, revoked.
Previous alert posted April 3, 2023
Senate Bill 1114, the companion bill to House Bill 919, will be reviewed by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, tomorrow (April 4, 2023). Contact your state Senators and committee members, and ask them to support this bill, and any amendments that strengthen regulations of HOAs with regard to fining its members. (https://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/Show/RI/)
Short Summary of HOA regulation bills:
Both bills set limitations on a homeowners’ association board’s authority to fine owners for violations to the covenants and restrictions, or rules and regulations.
One of the key amendments to FL Statue 720, the Homeowners Association Act, would legally prohibit fines from becoming a lien against the property. The bills also require written notice of a violation sent to the owner’s preferred address or email, as well as the owner’s tenant, if applicable.
If a property owner takes action to resolve the violation prior to the required opportunity for HOA hearing, the HOA can NOT fine the owner, or assess any legal costs to the owner. If the violation is cured within 30 days from the date the HOA fine is approved by a committee and the board, the fine is reduced by 50%, and no legal fees are billable to the owner.
To read full details of the bills, see the following reference links:
Florida Legislative Session 2023 — Community Association Bills (ccfj.net) SB1114
Florida Legislative Session 2023 — Community Association Bills (ccfj.net) HB919