Countdown to the 2018 Legislative Session

The 2018 Legislative Session is scheduled to officially begin on January 9, 2018, however, House and Senate Committees have been meeting since September. Here are some of the bills that have been filed so far that we are keeping an eye on and that you might hear more about as the legislative session moves forward.

HB 841, Relating to Community Associations, by Rep. Moraitis. Among other things, the bill will make the bulk buyer law permanent and add some new budget and reserve requirements for homeowners’ associations. It will also require a vote of the owners to be taken before a material alteration or substantial addition to the common elements.

HB 873, Relating to Homeowners’ Associations, by Rep. Diaz. This bill incorporates many of the changes that were made to the Condominium Act by last year’s HB 1237 into the Homeowners’ Association act. Among other things, the bill requires homeowners’ associations (HOAs) with 150 or more parcels to post digital copies of its official records on a website by July 1, 2019; prohibits the use of debit cards by HOAs; revises the recall procedures to remove the requirement for the board to certify or not certify the recall and file a petition for recall arbitration if the recall is not certified; creates new criminal penalties for kickbacks, forgery of a ballot or voting certificate, theft or embezzlement of association funds, and destruction of or refusal to allow inspection or copying of an official record; provides that in order to suspend an owner’s voting rights, the owner must be more than $1000 and at least 90 days delinquent and proof of such obligation must be provided to the owner at least 30 days before the suspension takes effect; imposes term limits of no more than 8 consecutive years unless approved by two-thirds of the total voting interests or unless there are not enough candidates to fill the vacancies on the board at the time of the vacancy; prohibits a board member, manager or management company from purchasing a parcel at a foreclosure sale resulting from the association’s foreclosure of its lien or take title by deed in lieu of foreclosure; and provides for new conflict of interest provisions.

HB 123, Relating to Bullying and Harassment in Community Associations, by Rep. Slosberg. The bill is titled “Stand Up for Seniors Act” and appears to apply only to condominium and homeowners’ associations intended and operated for occupancy by persons 55 years of age or older. It prohibits bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment. It requires associations to adopt, every 3 years, a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment. The policy must include the penalties for a person who commits an act of bullying or harassment, a procedure for receiving reports of an alleged act of bullying or harassment, and a procedure for the prompt investigation of a report of bullying or harassment. The penalties can include a written warning, anger management treatment, or a fine.

SB 266/HB 617, Relating to Covenants and Restrictions, by Sen. Passidomo and Rep. Edwards. These are similar to bills filed last year regarding the Marketable Record Title Act (MRTA). The intent is to simplify the process for preserving covenants and restrictions of homeowners’ associations, and allow non-residential property owners’ associations to preserve covenants and restrictions. It will also allow non-mandatory homeowners’ associations to revitalize covenants and restrictions that have expired.

HB 377/SB 734, Relating to Homeowners’ Associations, by Rep. Stone and Sen. Baxley. These bills provide for some regulation of homeowners’ associations (“HOAs”) by the Division of Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes (“Division”). There are some new consumer protection provisions related to associations controlled by a developer. The bills also give owners a cause of action against managers who do not provide access to records, give the Division the authority to investigate complaints in an HOA (but no money for it to do so), and remove the ability of HOAs to lien for fines.

HB 625, Relating to Community Associations, by Rep. J. Cortes. This bill requires the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to establish an Office of Community Association Hearings to employ community association hearing officers (instead of arbitrators). Among other things, the bill provides that a community association hearing officer can only be terminated for cause; removes the requirement that the arbitration decision be rendered within 30 days after the hearing; authorizes the hearing officer to impose sanctions against a board member or officer who intentionally prevented an association from complying with the law; and removes the requirement for pre-suit mediation of disputes in homeowners’ associations and instead requires arbitration for disputes in accordance with Section 718.1255, Florida Statutes. The cost of arbitration will be charged to the parties, and the petitioner is responsible for the initial $200 filing fee.

Other issues that we expect to see addressed this year are:

1. A bill that will extend the time to install sprinklers or an ELSS.

2. A “glitch” bill to address some of the ambiguities created by last year’s condominium bill.

3. A bill to curtail the use of fraudulent emotional support animals (ESAs). For more information and to join CALL’s 2018 Lobbying Efforts, please click here: http://callbp.com/get-involved/lobbying-initiatives/esa/

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