The Florida Legislature: 2015 Laws Affecting Community Associations

RosadelaCamara2015

Rosa de la Camara

By Rosa de la Camara, for BHA News Fall 2015: In order for association board members and managers to be able to best serve their communities, they must stay abreast of the legislative changes that take place each year in Florida. Governor Rick Scott signed HB 791 into law effective on July 1, 2015. A brief summary of some of the main changes, including whether they apply to Condominiums, Cooperatives or HOAs, follows. Two items that have been the topic of BHA discussions and publications, having to do with service animals and drones, are addressed in #9 and #10 below.

  1.  Electronic Voting (Condo/Coop/HOA): Associations may now conduct elections and other membership votes by utilizing an electronic method. The bill specifies the requirements necessary to establish an electronic voting method and the owner must consent to online voting or else he can vote by paper ballot.
  2. Digital or Electronic Transmission of Proxies (Condo/Coop/HOA): New law intends to specifically allow owners to fax or email their proxies to the association to facilitate voting. Amends the Florida Not-For-Profit Corporate Act, so it applies to Associations.
  3. Electronic Notice to Owners (Condo/Coop/HOA): The change removes the requirement that the By Laws must authorize owners to receive electronic notices. Now only the owner’s written consent is needed.
  4. Fines/Penalties (Condo/Coop/HOA): The bill clarifies that it is the board of administration of the association that is responsible for levying any fines and that the role of the fining committee is to confirm or reject the fine levied by the Board.
  5. Suspension of Voting Rights (Condo/Coop/HOA): If an owner’s voting rights have been suspended, the vote(s) of the suspended member must be reduced from the total number of voting interests when calculating the vote needed for any action.
  6. Application of Payment/Assessments (Condo/Coop): Intended to overrule a 2014 case that held that if a check is tendered for less than the total amount of a disputed claim, the acceptance creates a full satisfaction if the payment is accompanied by an offer to settle for that amount. The change clarifies that the statutory order of application of payment, even with partial payments, still applies (first accrued interest shall be paid, followed by any administrative late fees, then any costs and attorney’s fees, and, finally, the delinquent assessment).
  7. Official Records (Condo/Coop): Amends the official records “catch-all” provision which now provides that Official Records include “other” records as long as they are “written” records.
  8. Terminations (Condo): Includes several changes to the law, i.e.: votes cannot be suspended when voting on termination, if a Plan of Termination is rejected by 10% of the voters, another Plan cannot be considered for at least 18 months, and many others.
  9. Service Animals (Condo/Coop/HOA): Changes to §413.08 are intended to clarify what a service animal is, the types of disabilities that may legitimately entitle someone to a service animal and to penalize those who misrepresent the need for a service animal.
  10. Drone Surveillance (Condo/Coop/HOA): The law prohibits persons from using a drone to photograph or conduct surveillance on private property unless the property owner has consented. The new law contains some exceptions for persons with a profession which is licensed by the State to perform reasonable tasks within the scope of the license.This year, the Florida legislature convenes early, in January instead of March, so new proposals for amendments and laws affecting Condos and Homeowners Associations will soon be proposed by and debated among our State legislators.
    Rosa de la Camara is shareholder with the law firm Becker & Poliakoff where she has worked for 27 years concentrating her practice on representing community associations and addressing complex issues involving Boards, unit owners, managers and state and local policymakers. She is widely recognized for her well-honed skills and serves as General Counsel to many boards, including BHA.