Another year and another round of tweaking to Florida’s Homeowners Association Act (Florida Statutes Chapter 720) and the Florida Condominium Act (Florida Statutes Chapter 718) have been enacted. The new laws were signed by the Governor on June 13, 2014 and went into effect on July 1, 2014. The new law is not very expansive but did clarify a few issues and expanded certain rights. Please note that the laws do not necessarily apply equally to both condominiums and homeowners associations, as a legislature continues to modify the applicable chapters inconsistently.
Under current law, a Condominium Association has certain right to access a unit owner’s unit, “when necessary for the maintenance, repair, or replacement of any common elements” and “or as necessary to prevent damage to the common elements or to a unit.” Due to foreclosure, many units in Florida have become abandoned and the legislature took notice of this issue and expanded Florida law to grant an additional right of access to a Condominium Association when a unit is abandoned by the unit owner. Prior to access, the association must determine that the unit is abandoned and give the owner at least two days’ notice prior to access. This new right includes the right of the Association to turn utilities on and to inspect for and repair mold.
The insurance provision of the Condominium Act has been clarified to address non-insurable events. These are events that are either not covered by insurance or maybe for a loss of less than the minimum deductible of the Association’s insurance policy or for loss or repair due to ordinary use. The coverage of these losses to condominium property is now determined by looking at the declaration of condominium for the specific condominium in question.
In clarifying the right of the Associations to create a directory containing the name and address of each unit/homeowner the statute includes a provision that allows for multiple phone numbers to be listed, with the right to opt out still retained by each unit/homeowner by sending written notice to the Association. In addition, the Association may, with the consent of each unit/homeowner, include additional information in the directory, presumably the electronic mail address or other information that the unit/homeowner is willing to disclose to other owners. This provision is applicable to both Condominium and Homeowners Associations.
A current problem in many Condominium Associations is the transfer of power from one board to the next. The law will now require the outgoing board to turn over all official records in their possession within five days of the election of the new board. In addition, the Bureau of Condominium may impose civil penalties on those who fail to cooperate with this requirement.
In recognizing the greater use of electronic mail, the Condominium Act has also been expanded to allow board members to communicate via email with other board members without creating a quorum which would require a meeting open to all members. No voting is permitted by electronic mail.
In order to address a recent case that held that unit owner is not liable for previous owner’s assessments if the Condominium Association had foreclosed or took title to a unit, the statute now provides that a current owner is liable for assessments of the previous owner except for the period in which the Association held title to the unit. This commonly occurs when Association forecloses then subsequent to that foreclosure the bank forecloses and either the bank or a third-party obtains title from the bank foreclosure. This provision was added to the Homeowners Association Act in 2013.
In order to provide access to Homeowner Association meetings to disabled persons, the Act was amended to require Associations to provide disability access if requested by a handicapped person who is entitled to attend the meeting.
An entirely new section was added to the Homeowners Association Act to address issues arising from an emergency situation. For purposes of this change, which is very similar to a previously enacted law affecting condominiums, an emergency is defined as a state of emergency affecting the area in which the association is located as called by the Governor. The difference between the Homeowners Association statute and the Condominium statute is that the Homeowners Association does not gain the right to access individual homes, a right that the Condominium Association retains.
Overall, the revisions were mostly minor and, in part, to clarify existing law or to unify certain parts of both Acts. Presumably, were substantial changes will be addressed by the legislature in upcoming sessions.
Michael Posner, Esq., is a partner in Ward Damon a mid-sized real estate and business oriented law firm serving all of South Florida, with offices in Palm Beach County. They specialize in real estate and can assist community associations in all legal matters. They can be reached at 561.594.1452, or at email@example.com