Mobile Home Parks have long been attractive investments due to their steady cash flow stemming from the regular payment of lot rents. National park operators, real estate investment trusts and pension funds have been buying “mom and pop” parks over the last several decades leading to an overall industry consolidation. As the industry becomes more and more consolidated, investors have turned their attention to purchasing cooperatives. And they are selling for big money! As posted in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, the Country Lakes Village cooperative recently sold for close to $70million dollars.

See https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/business/2022/08/09/manatee-county-manufactured-home-community-sells-70-million/10265234002/

The transaction usually begins with a “Letter of Intent” mailed to the association officers. The Letter of Intent presents the purchasers interest in purchasing the park. The purchase price will usually be broken down into a “per share price” of, say for example, $200,000 per share. Note that once the association sells the park, the cooperative is terminated and all residents will transform from shareholder owners to lot renters. To address this change, the Letters of Intent will usually present a proposed annual lot rent, capped to a fixed annual increase for the lifetime of the current residents. The interested purchaser will usually promise to provide community-wide amenity upgrades, in amounts upwards of several millions of dollars as well. Those upgrades might include clubhouse renovations, new landscaping, pool renovations, installation of pickleball courts, and the like.

On receipt of such Letters of Intent, Association officers have some big questions to answer: what is my fiduciary duty to the shareholders in connection with this offer? will the other shareholders be interested in selling? what is the appraised value of the park and is that value accurately reflected in the proposed purchase price? what shareholder and director approvals are required in order to sell the park and terminate the cooperative?

In follow-up posts, we will dive into those issues in greater detail. In the meantime, if you receive a Letter of Intent to purchase your park, you should contact your legal advisor without delay to help you begin working through the various issues a Letter of Intent presents.

Good morning, everyone!  Hope all of you are enjoying the summer whether you are still in Florida or “up North”.

Just a brief blog post to let you know that the DBPR has updated the fees that can be charged for estoppel certificates.

A fee of not more than $299 can be charged for preparation and delivery of an estoppel certificate that’s not a “rush” delivery.

If the estoppel certificate is requested on an expedited basis and delivered within 3 business days, an additional $119 can be added to the fee.

If the unit or parcel has delinquent amounts owed to the association, an additional fee not to exceed $179 can be added.

The fees for multiple units or parcels owned by the same owner also have been increased and those fees (as well as the others mentioned above) can be viewed at this link to the DBPR site:  http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/lsc/documents/ESTOPPEL_CERTIFICATE_FEES.pdf

The statute in Chapter 719 governing estoppel certificates for cooperative associations authorizes the DBPR to adjust the fees for these certificates every five years so, unless there is a change in the statutes, the next adjustment will occur in the summer of 2027.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office.

Stay safe and healthy and let’s hope for a quiet and boring hurricane season!

We’ve made it through the first month of 2020!  February will be very busy as I am offering board certification training for prospective and current Directors of cooperative associations (governed under Chapter 719 of the Florida Statutes) on the following dates:

Our board certification training sessions have always been very well attended and we expect more of the same for these events.  If you wish to attend one of these presentations (or know of someone who wishes to do so) please contact me at sgordon@lutzbobo.com and I will provide you the additional information to RSVP for this training.  As always, you will find both refreshments and networking aplenty!

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published its latest guidance on how housing providers should deal with a request for an assistance animal as a “reasonable accommodation” under federal Fair Housing laws.  Discussing this latest guidance with your association attorney might be a good item to put at the top of your board’s “to do” list.

I hope to see many of you this month at board certification training or at the annual meetings I’ll be attending.

Labor Day has come and gone, several tropical systems are swirling in the Atlantic (you may recall that all of Florida was in panic mode awaiting Irma this time last year) and our snowbirds will be returning before we know it.  Seems like a good time to discuss some of the changes made to Chapter 719 by Florida’s legislature earlier this year–all of which became effective on July 1, 2018:

  • Florida Statutes Section 719.104(2)(a) was revised to provide that the book or books containing the minutes of all meetings of the association, of its board of directors, and of its unit owners now apparently must be retained forever as the provision that stated “which minutes shall be retained for a period of not less than 7 years” has now been deleted.  That same deletion occurred in the paragraph relating to the retention of the association’s accounting records which now must also apparently be retained forever.
  • Section 719.104(2)(a) was also revised to include “electronic records” relating to voting as part of the documents related to voting by unit owners that must be maintained for a period of 1 year after the date of the election, vote, or meeting to which the document relates.
  • Section 719.104(2)(b) now clarifies that the association has 10 working days (rather than 5 working days) after its board or designee received a written request to inspect or copy official records to make those records available.
  • Co-owners of a unit in a cooperative with more than 10 units can no longer serve as board members at the same time unless those co-owners own more than one unit or unless there are not enough eligible candidates to fill the vacancies on the board at the time of the vacancy.   This revision to Section 719.106(1)(a)1 follows a similar revision to Florida’s condominium association statutes that occurred several years ago.
  • Section 719.106(1)(c) was amended to allow for board members to use email as a “means of communication” with other board members but board members may not cast a vote on an association matter by email.  I have a feeling that this amendment may create all kinds of issues–not the least of which will be whether or not these email communications might in some cases become part of the “official records” of the association.  I’m also concerned that these email communications between board members may end up becoming the “real” board meetings and will be very interested in seeing whether this provision creates new headaches for board members and managers of resident owned communities in our state.

Stay tuned and I’ll be posting Part II of the 2018 revisions to Florida’s Cooperative Association Laws later this month.

 

I’m typing this blog entry on an absolutely beautiful afternoon in Sarasota. Sunshine, low humidity and temperatures in the mid-seventies. It’s hard to believe that it’s been just six weeks since Hurricane Irma rampaged through our state and disrupted our lives.

All in all,most of the resident owned communities we work with were spared the worst of the storm–although several of our ROC’s will be dealing with the challenges of post-Irma recovery for at least the next few months.

Thankfully, we have not heard of any storm related injuries but once again would stress that managers and board members take all steps needed to make sure that residents understand that, unless the community’s clubhouse is a Red Cross Certified Shelter, the clubhouse should not be used as the place to "ride out the storm".

Sadly, but not unexpectedly, Hurricane Irma (and Hurricane Harvey), brought out those human vermin who prey on those in need. Here’s a link to an article about just some of those Irma/Harvey scams.

While I’m on the topic of scams, I want to highlight two that just make my blood boil:

  1. If you’ve recently purchased your home or unit, you may receive an official looking notice from a company or "office" offering to help you obtain a copy of your deed or assignment of lease. All you have to do is send this company or "office" a check for a "service fee". We were provided with a copy of one of these notices and the check requested was for $89.00. Do yourself a favor if you receive this (or a similar) notice–throw it out. You don’t need a copy of your deed or assignment of lease and if you really want a copy, you can go online and print the recorded document you want for free or make a trip to your county’s recorder’s office and you’ll pay $1 per page. You do the math.
  2. I’ve blogged about the "service dog" scam before but it’s not going away. In fact, it’s getting worse. It astounds me that people are willing to throw money away for diplomas, identity cards, collars, etc. that wrongly identify their pet as a "service animal". Why would anyone pay $100 or more for pieces of paper or cloth that are worthless? I’m going to repeat this again and again until it sinks in: A "service animal" under the Americans With Disabilities Act is defined as a dog (and in certain limited situations, a miniature horse) that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task or tasks performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act does NOT require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness.

So let me break this down one more time: It doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve paid $150 for a piece of paper "certifying" that your pet is a "service animal". Either you have a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks that are directly related to your disability or you don’t. Whether or not you’ve got that "certificate" is irrelevant. And one last thing–which I’ve also mentioned before–Florida Statute Section 413.08(9) makes it a crime for anyone to knowingly and willfully misrepresent that he or she is using a service animal.

Let’s put an end to these two scams once and for all!

 I’m sure everyone reading this post is well aware that Florida is being threatened by a massive and powerful hurricane that has already caused numerous deaths and incredible destruction over the past few days.

I’m typing this on Thursday afternoon (September 7th) and Hurricane Irma remains a Category 5 system capable of causing additional catastrophic damage.  Winds are still in excess of 180 miles per hour and tropical storm force winds extend at least 150 miles from the center of the storm.

If you are reading this in Florida, you know that water, D batteries, bread and other supplies are very hard to find and lines at many gas stations are growing by the minute.  Courts and other state and county offices (if they have not already closed) will be closed tomorrow.  Sporting events have been rescheduled or canceled, schools are closing, and airports are chaotic (and many will be closing within the next twenty four to forty eight hours).

I’ve posted several times in the past about the importance of following mandatory evacuation orders and not using your community’s clubhouse or other common area facility as a shelter to "ride out" the storm.  I cannot overly stress the importance to evacuating when you are ordered to do so and, unless your clubhouse/common area facility is a Red Cross certified hurricane shelter, you should not use it as such.  If you have pets, you should have long ago determined what shelters are "pet friendly" and should have taken all steps needed to reserve a space at that shelter.

If you are remaining in Florida, or in any other area threatened by this dangerous hurricane, please check out Bryan Norcross’ Facebook page for a very good list to help you deal with the days ahead.  

As always, the National Hurricane Center’s site can provide you with much needed information about the storm.

Our office will be closed tomorrow (September 8) and hopefully we will be back up and running on Monday, September 11.

I pray that all of you and your communities are spared the worst of Hurricane Irma.

Lost in all of the controversy surrounding the recent amendments to Florida’s laws governing community associations–and, in particular, the changes to condominium association laws enacted by House Bill 1237–were revisions to the financial reporting requirements for condominium and cooperative associations.

House Bill 6027 became effective on July 1 and amends provisions of Chapters 718 and 719 of the Florida Statutes.   House Bill 6027 is a "two edged sword":

  • On one hand, it removes the "fewer than 50 units" exception that allowed community associations to simply prepare a report of cash receipts and expenditures instead of either compiled, reviewed or audited financial statements regardless of the association’s annual revenue.  House Bill 6027 also removes this exception from F.S. Section 720.303, which governs financial reporting for mandatory homeowners associations.
  • On the other hand, condominium and cooperative associations are no longer prohibited from waiving the statutorily provided financial reporting requirements for more than 3 consecutive years.   This prohibition against associations waiving these reporting requirements more than 3 years in a row was a fairly recent addition to Florida statutes.  House Bill 6027 effectively "turns back the clock" and allows associations to waive those financial reporting requirements on an annual basis for as long as the association’s members see fit.

At least in regards to these financial reporting requirements, "what the legislature giveth, the legislature taketh away".

I hope all of you had a safe and restful 4th of July and that we’ll have another uneventful hurricane season.

 

Effective July 1, 2017, Florida’s condominium, cooperative and mandatory homeowners’ associations (and the management companies hired by those associations) will have some certainty and guidance when dealing with requests for estoppel certificates.

Florida Statute Sections 718.116, 719.108, and 720.30851 have all been amended.

Here are just a few highlights of those amendments:

As I said, these are just a few of the "highlights".

  • The estoppel certificate must now be issued within 10 business days after the association receives the request (rather than 15 days as previously provided)
  • Each of the amended statutes now specifically provides that the estoppel certificate contain certain information and each further provides that the information is to be "substantially" in a form provided in each of these statutes
  • A thirty or thirty-five day effective period (depending on how the estoppel certificate is sent to the requesting party) is provided for in each of these amended statutes
  • The association or its authorized agent (such as its management company) may charge a "reasonable fee" for the preparation and delivery of an estoppel certificate. Where there are no delinquent amounts owed on the date the certificate is issued, that fee cannot exceed $250. If the certificate is requested on an "expedited basis" and delivered within three business days after the request, an additional $100 may be charged, and, if a delinquent amount is owed to the association for the unit or parcel in question, an additional amount not to exceed $150 can be charged
  • There are provisions governing calculating the amounts that can be charged for estoppel certificates for multiple units or parcels owned by the owner

If you are interested in reading the full text of Senate Bill 398, you can link to it here.

Please feel free to contact me through this blog if you have any questions.

 In the past few months, while many of the residents in our communities have escaped Florida’s heat and humidity, our friends at the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development have been busy expanding the reach of Fair Housing protections.  

Here are a few of HUD’s more notable recent actions on the Fair Housing front:

  • In April, HUD’s Office of General Counsel published "guidance" making it more difficult for housing providers to justify denying a prospective owner or renter on the basis of that applicant’s criminal record.
  • On September 14, HUD issued its final rule on "Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment"–apparently creating new liabilities for a housing provider in certain situations for allowing a "hostile environment" to exist in the community to the detriment of a person who falls within one of the Fair Housing Act’s "protected classifications".
  • Just a few days after that final rule was issued, HUD apparently issued yet another decree–this time providing that persons who speak no or limited English are entitled to Fair Housing Act protections.

In other words, the rules of the Fair Housing game have changed over the summer.   We’re digesting HUD’s activities and plan on focusing our next community association seminars on the challenges of keeping ROC’s compliant with Fair Housing laws.  In the meantime, board members and managers in resident owned communities would be well advised to consult with their legal counsel about any Fair Housing questions they may have.