Florida Legislative SessionIn anticipation of the 2016 Florida legislative session, Representative John Cortes of the Florida House of Representatives filed three bills affecting all Florida community associations and managers. Omnibus style House Bill 667 is massive in its scope. Its author begins by fully repealing Chapter 719, regulating Florida cooperatives and Chapter 720 regulating Florida homeowners associations, and then amends Chapter 718 to include many of the provisions of the repealed Florida Statutes, albeit, at times, with many significant differences. A new term is created, “common interest community” which refers to all types of residential communities and makes them subject to the provisions of the significantly overhauled Chapter 718. This Bill is 441 pages long.

While all the changes are too numerous to mention, a few of the major changes which appear in the first 150 pages include:

  • Without regard to constitutional protections against impairment of existing contracts, House Bill 667 makes all future legislative amendments to Chapter 718, which would regulate all common interest communities, applicable to your community whether you want it to or not.
  • The transfer of homes (referred to as “units”) cannot be restricted unless the transfer is likely to threaten the security of the residents, association property, and the financial status of the association or the ability of the association to qualify for institutional mortgage financing. This diminishes many associations otherwise existing broad approval rights.
  • Upon receipt of a certified written inquiry from a member, the association’s obligation is to provide what is defined in this legislation as a “substantive response.” Further, any substantive response must include, at a minimum, a restatement of the issue presented by the owner, the board’s written response to the issue, and the board’s actions or intended actions in response to the issue, in addition to all other facts, opinions, requests, and positions taken that are relevant to the issue. A unit owner who does not receive a substantive response within 15 days is entitled to the actual damages or minimum damages for the association’s willful failure to comply with this paragraph. The minimum damages will be $100 per calendar day for up to 20 business days, beginning on the 16th business day after receipt of the written request.

Thus, while the concept of one chapter of law to govern all types of residential associations may one day prove worthwhile, in its present form, House Bill 667 needs work. As yet, this Bill does not have a Senate sponsor.

While Representative Cortes’ House Bill 667 seeks to completely revamp all existing Florida community association legislation, he has also filed House Bill 653 which attempts to bring the statutes regarding homeowners’ associations closer to those which govern condominiums and cooperatives (i.e., requiring the use of limited proxies for votes of the owners and conducting elections in the same manner as condominium elections). As was attempted during last year’s legislative session, House Bill 653 also seeks to make homeowners’ associations subject to the oversight (and fees) of the, to be renamed, “Division of Florida Condominiums, Homeowners’ Associations, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes.”

With regard to community association managers, Representative Cortes’ House Bill 665 creates liability on the part of a community association manager for damages incurred from offering incorrect advice. The Regulatory Council of Community Association Managers name is changed to the “Board of Community Association Managers” and additional new regulations regarding the membership and authority of the “Board of Community Association Managers” have also been amended and added in this Bill. House Bill 665 revises provisions relating to licensure of community association managers and community association management firms to require that a community association manager’s license expires on September 30th of even numbered years requiring renewal every two years.

House Bill 665 also requires community association manager pre-licensure education consisting of not more than 40 hours of in-person instruction by a department-approved provider which must cover all areas of the examination including a new list of 22 fundamental management skills and knowledge. This is 18 hours more than what is presently required. The odd part is the sentence structure. If “not more than 40 hours of in-person instruction” is required, does that mean the course can be taught in as little as 1 hour (not that it could)?

Based on these few bills, Florida’s 2016 legislative session, which was expected to be a quiet year as related to community associations, could turn out to be quite active.

Jeffrey Rembaum, Esq. of Kaye, Bender, Rembaum attorneys at law, legal practice consists of representation of condominium, homeowner, commercial and mobile home park associations, as well as exclusive country club communities and the developers who build them. He is a regular columnist for The Condo News, a biweekly publication and was inducted into the 2012, 2013 & 2014 Florida Super Lawyers. He can be reached at 561-241-4462.