2014 Legislative Roundup Legislature Tweaks Community Association Laws

A quote often attributed to the Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck in the mid-1800s says something to the effect that laws are like sausages—it's better not to see either of them being made. It's a clever quip, and it's not entirely inaccurate, but the truth is that if you serve on the board of your condo, co-op, or homeowners association, or if you manage any kind of multifamily community, you should have at least some awareness of the laws and legislation affecting you, your neighbors, and the residents you serve. This awareness not only enables you to do your job better but it can help save your community money by planning in advance, avoiding fines, and keeping compliant with emerging regulations.

Echoes of the Recession...

The lingering effects of the recession and attendant foreclosure crisis were still evident in some of the community association-related legislation that the Florida Legislature considered during its 2014 regular session, which ran from March 4 through May 3.

Proposed changes to the state statutes dealing with condominiums, cooperatives, and homeowners associations would give associations additional rights to enter and maintain abandoned units, clarify 'joint and several liability' for payment of assessments and fees, and revise the safe-harbor limits that cap the assessments and fees banks owe when they foreclose and take possession of a unit.

These proposals were in the annual 'housekeeping' bill that updates the state's community associations laws: HB 807, sponsored by Rep. George R. Moraitis, Jr., (R-Ft. Lauderdale); and its companion, SB 798, sponsored by Sen. Jeremy Ring, (D-Margate).

The abandonment provision would authorize an association to inspect a condo unit that is in foreclosure and empty for more than two months, turn on its utilities, and repair and maintain it. According to Yeline Goin, an attorney with the Fort Myers office of Becker & Poliakoff and the executive director of the Community Association Leadership Lobby (CALL), “The bill also would give the association the ability to rent out such units to recoup its expenses.”

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