Earlier today, I received an email from the Community Association Institute’s Florida Legislative Alliance ("FLA") alerting me to bills to be introduced in the upcoming legislative session in Tallahassee.
According to the email, Senate Bill 286 and House Bill 575 "will have a serious negative impact on community associations and other consumers of design professional services."
The email from the FLA continues:
"As presently designed, these bills will permit surveyors, engineers, landscape architects, architects and interior designers ("design professionals") to eliminate all personal liability for economic damages caused by the negligent performance of their design professional services pursuant to a contract with the consumer. This is done by them simply placing a ‘prominent statement (in their form contract), in uppercase font that is at least 5 point sizes larger than the rest of the text’, and, pursuant to this legislation, an individual employee or agent may not be held individually liable for negligence."
According to the FLA, supporters of these bills argue that consumers will take steps to re-impose liability on a "design professional" upon seeing that "prominent statement" in the contract. However, this argument–according to the FLA–"completely ignores human nature" and the fact that many, if not most, consumers (including ROC boards) sign form contracts without even reading those contracts.
In addition, while these bills do not protect design professional companies, the FLA contends that design professional companies can easily "hide" assets by placing them in other entities–thus eliminating any realistic chance of a consumer or community association recovering any amounts when suffering damages as a result of the negligence of a "design professional".
The FLA’s email summarizes SB 286 and HB 575 as "an unfortunate attempt to shift the ultimate negligence liability burden from the design professionals to the consumers."
If you agree with the FLA’s analysis of these bills, the FLA urges you to contact your state senator and state representative as well as the members of Florida’s Senate Judiciary Committee and House Civil Justice Subcommittee to request that they oppose any attempt to reduce liability for these "design professionals". The FLA asks that you include a reference to SB 286 in your correspondence to Florida’s Senators and refer to HB 575 when contacting Florida’s Representatives.
Just a reminder–if you’re a ROC manager or board member and haven’t already sent in your reservation for the Third Annual Community Association Festival at the Venice Community Center on Wednesday, February 20, there’s still time! Just send an email to email@example.com or call 941-809-2031. Remember, the event’s free, and that includes a continental breakfast, a barbecue lunch, and a lot of information and networking opportunities. I hope to see you there–just wear your favorite Hawaiian shirt!