2021 Florida legislative session brings significant changes to community association laws
By Colby Keefe with Henderson Franklin Attorneys at Law
The 2021 Florida Legislative session, which ended on April 30, 2021, was an active one for proposed community association legislation.
The following community association-related bills have either been signed into law or have passed the House and Senate and are pending signature by Governor DeSantis, with anticipated effective dates provided:
Senate Bill 72 (effective upon being signed into law): Previously covered in our blog here, this bill grants some civil immunity to business entities (including not-for-profit corporations) against plaintiffs bringing COVID-19 injury and wrongful death claims.
Senate Bill 56 (effective July 1, 2021): This bill requires condominium associations to send an Intent to Lien at least 45 days (an increase from the current 30 days’ notice period) prior to recording a Claim of Lien for unpaid assessments, and a subsequent Intent to Foreclose at least 45 days prior to initiating an action to foreclose said Claim of Lien. Additionally, attorneys’ fees cannot be recovered from the delinquent Owner until a written notice of late assessment (which must include a breakdown of amounts due) is delivered via first-class U.S. Mail or to the Owner at least 30 days before sending the account to an attorney for collection.
Senate Bill 630 (effective July 1, 2021): This bill touches on a variety of topics concerning community associations. Among other things, this bill:
prohibits condominium unit owner insurers from suing condominium association for subrogation unless the condominium’s insurer may sue the unit owner for subrogation;
expands the definition of emergency for triggering a community association’s emergency powers and expands and modernizes those powers to provide for video and teleconferencing meetings;
prohibits condominium and cooperative associations from requiring a member to state his or her reason for an official records inspection request;
limits the scope of official records which may be inspected by excluding a visitor log in a gated community;
clarifies that for purposes of calculating the 8-year term applicable to condominium directors, only years of service on or after July 1, 2018 shall be counted;
imposes rules and limitations on homeowners associations seeking to enact rental amendments;
revises the method to challenge a board member recall;
expands alternative dispute resolution options to include presuit mediation (in addition to nonbinding arbitration) prior to filing a lawsuit; and,
removes requirement that a homeowners association must continue funding reserves created by the developer.
Senate Bill 602 (effective upon being signed into law): This bill amends Chapter 617 (the “Not-for-Profit Act”) to clarify and reiterate that in the event of a conflict between Chapter 617 and Chapters 718, 719, and 720, respectively, the latter would prevail and control governance of the condominium, cooperative, or homeowners association.
House Bill 649 (effective July 1, 2021): This bill gives community associations the ability to file, on behalf of all Owners, a single petition with a value adjustment board for the purpose of objecting to property value assessments.
Additional legislation affecting community association includes Senate Bill 1966 (providing definition of “delinquent” for purposes of condominium board eligibility, effective July 1, 2021); House Bill 463 (exempting community association swimming pools serving less than 32 parcels from Florida Department of Health supervision, effective July 1, 2021). Notably missing from the list of community association-related laws is House Bill 403 (effective July 1, 2021), would have the effect of prohibiting some regulations enacted by local governments regarding home-based business operations. The bill, which is awaiting signature by Governor DeSantis, specifically excludes community associations from its application. Thus, although the bill is posed to be signed into law, it should not affect community associations and gives condominium and homeowners associations the continued right to restrict at-home business operations, provided such restrictions are duly enacted.
Some of the new laws serve to answer longstanding questions raised by prior legislative sessions, such as how the application of the 8-year term limit in condominiums should be calculated, and whether rental restrictions passed by homeowners associations could be applied uniformly as to all members or only as to those who approve the restriction or purchase after its enactment (as is the case in condominiums).
However, some of the new laws mark significant changes to the operation of both condominium and homeowners associations. Community associations need to consider what changes to their practices and policies should be made to comply with the legislation borne from the 2021 Florida legislative session, including updating collection policies and updating policies for complying with official record inspection requests.