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.

 

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.

 Effective July 1, 2015, voting and the conduct of elections in resident owned communities in Florida may be done electronically.  There are numerous conditions that must be met before a unit owner can vote electronically–not the least of which is that the unit or parcel owner must consent to that electronic voting.

Earlier this year, Florida’s legislators created three new statutes to provide for the use of an "Internet based online voting system":

  • Florida Statute Section 718.128 for condominium associations
  • Florida Statute Section 719.129 for cooperative associations 
  • Florida Statute Section 720.317 for mandatory homeowners’ associations

In addition, existing statutes were revised to allow electronic transmission of notices of most board meetings, membership meetings, and committee meetings even if the association’s bylaws don’t expressly allow for electronic transmission of these notices.

Moreover, Chapter 617 of the Florida Statutes, which governs not-for-profit corporations, was amended to provide that a copy, facsimile transmission, or other "reliable reproduction" of an original proxy can be used instead of the original proxy as long as that copy, fax, or reproduction is a "complete reproduction" of the original proxy–even if the association’s bylaws or articles of incorporation prohibit its use.

As you can imagine, there are more questions than answers raised by these new laws allowing for "online voting".   I have a feeling that community association attorneys (as well as managers and board members) are going to have a very interesting "election season".

The recent revisions to Florida’s laws governing condominium associations, cooperative associations, and mandatory homeowners’ associations updated the procedures for producing, inspecting and copying an association’s "official records".

Effective July 1, 2013, an association in Florida’s resident owned communities can satisfy the requirement that it make its official records available for inspection and copying by:

  • making the records available to a member electronically via the Internet or
  • allowing the records to be viewed in an electronic format on a computer screen and printed upon request

Board members and managers in resident owned communities should note that the association is not responsible for the use or misuse of the information provided to a member or that member’s representative when it complies with the requirements to produce official records for inspection or copying unless the association has an affirmative duty not to disclose that information–for example, if that information falls within the category of "protected" official records.

In addition, associations must now allow a member or his or her authorized representative to use portable devices, including smartphones, tablets, portable scanners, or any other technology capable of scanning or taking photographs, to make an electronic copy of the official records instead of the association providing that member or his or her representative with a copy of those records.  The association may not charge that member or his or her representative for the use of a portable device. 

Again, board members and managers should remember that certain information–while part of the association’s official records–is not to be produced to members and great care must be taken to carefully inspect all records and to remove or redact all information that is required to remain confidential or otherwise protected before those records are produced to the member or his or her representative.

When faced with requests to produce records for inspection or copying, an association should strongly consider consulting with its attorney before responding to that request.

We’ll be discussing hurricane preparedness and Citizens Insurance this Saturday from 11 to noon on Community Matters and I hope you’ll listen live or by podcast.

As many followers of this blog may already know, House Bill 87 was signed by Florida’s Governor last Friday.  This bill provides community associations with some hope that the foreclosure process–which seems to take an eternity before it concludes–will be expedited and that an association can have a meaningful voice in the foreclosure action. 

I discussed House Bill 87 and several other bills affecting resident owned communities last weekend with lobbyist Travis Moore on our inaugural hour of  "Community Matters," which airs every Saturday from 11 a.m. until noon on Sarasota TalkRadio, WSRQ–1220 AM and 106.9 FM.

In addition to providing our listeners with an explanation of House Bill 87 and its effect on the foreclosure process, Travis summarized a number of other provisions, including the following:

  • Changes to the fees to be paid by communities to the State of Florida for submerged land leases
  • A requirement that mandatory homeowners associations be registered with the State
  • Updates to statutes governing a unit or parcel owner’s right to copy the association’s "official records" which will expressly allow for such copying to occur by use of an iPad, tablet,  iPhone or similar device.
  • Provisions clarifying what information about a unit owner or parcel owner an association can safely include in its membership directory
  • Amendments to the statutes governing cooperative associations that will provide those associations with the same protections in regards to personnel matters and personnel records as found in the statutes governing condominium and mandatory homeowners associations
  • An additional amendment to Chapter 719 of the Florida Statutes requiring newly elected or appointed board members of cooperative associations to meet the same certification or education standards as board members in condominium associations

If you’d like to hear last Saturday’s show–here’s the link to the podcasts for "Community Matters": sarasotatalkradio.com/community-matters/  .  Just click on "read more" and you’ll find the podcast.

We’ll be discussing hurricane preparedness for the next two weeks. I hope you’ll listen live or to our podcasts and I’ll look forward to your questions and your suggestions for future topics for "Community Matters".

Here’s yet another example of how the statutes governing condominium associations differ from those governing cooperative associations:

The members of a community association have just approved an amendment to the association’s bylaws.  Exactly when does the amendment to the bylaws become effective?

Florida Statute Section 718.112(1)(b) provides that no amendment to the bylaws of a condominium association is valid unless properly recorded in the public records of the county where the declaration of condominium is recorded.  

No similar provision exists in Chapter 719 of the Florida Statutes, which governs cooperative associations.  Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation correctly notes that the question of when an amendment to the bylaws of a cooperative association becomes effective is not addressed in Chapter 719.

However, F.S. Section 719.106(1)(h) requires that the bylaws of a cooperative association provide for the method for amendment "consistent with the provisions" of Chapter 719 and if the bylaws do not provide a method for amendment, this section contains the "default" method to be used.

Most of the bylaws of cooperative associations that I’ve either prepared or reviewed do provide for a method of amendment and also provide for an effective date, which is quite often the date that a copy of the amendment and a properly signed certificate which confirms that the bylaw amendment was adopted by the members at a membership meeting is recorded in the public records of the county where the community is located.   This process is consistent with Chapter 719 and gives both unit owners and title examiners certainty as to the effective date of the bylaw amendment.

Thanks to the members of Mid-Florida ROC for their questions, comments and hospitality during my presentation at their meeting earlier this week at Country Club Manor in Eustis.

Our next community association seminar is scheduled for Tuesday morning, December 5, at Paradise Bay Estates in Bradenton.  If your community is located in the area and you’d like to attend, please send an email to kmidlam@lutzbobo.com or ksawdo@lutzbobo.com.    As always, there’s no charge for the event and you”ll have the chance to network and have some refreshments. 

I’ll be posting the dates and locations of other upcoming seminars and presentations in my next blog entry.

I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving and look forward to seeing you soon!

Florida’s state senators and representatives have concluded their 2012 legislative session in Tallahassee.

While House Bill 319 was overwhelmingly approved, Senate Bill 680–the companion to HB 319–never came before the Senate for a vote, thus effectively preventing either of these bills from becoming law.

Whether the failure of either bill to make its way out of this legislative session is good or bad is a matter of opinion

However, managers and board members in cooperatives should be reminded that, at least for the immediate future, the "status quo" will continue–as will important differences between Florida’s statutes governing cooperative associations and those provisions governing condominium associations (and in many cases, the statutes governing mandatory homeowners associations), including the following:

Newly elected or appointed board members in cooperatives are still not subject to the certification/education requirement found in Chapter 718.

The statutes governing cooperative associations continue to have no "safe harbor" provisions for first mortgagees that take title to a unit through foreclosure or assignment in lieu of foreclosure.

Finally, certain privacy protections recently afforded to owners and employees in condominiums and mandatory homeowners associations were once again not extended to members of cooperative associations and the employees in cooperative communities.

I suspect we’ll be discussing these issues again at the same time next year.  

If you’re attending the PM-EXPO on March 27 at the Charlotte County Harbor Event & Conference Center in Punta Gorda, please stop by our booth and say hello to us!

 

 

As most of the followers of this blog know, Florida’s legislature is currently in session in Tallahassee.

The bill that may be of most interest to community association managers, homeowners, and those of us that provide legal assistance and advice to ROCs-House Bill 319–has been making its way through the various legislative committees.

The latest version of this bill–as of the close of business on Monday, February 27–has two very interesting "tweaks" that will impact cooperatives:

First, there is now an amendment to Florida Statute Section 719.108 that will extend the "safe harbor" provisions found in the condominium association and mandatory homeowners’ association laws to cooperative associations.  These "safe harbor" provisions will limit the liability of a first mortgagee or its successors or assignees who acquire title to a cooperative unit by either foreclosure or by deed (or assignment?) in lieu of foreclosure for the unpaid assessments that became due before the mortgagee’s acquisition of title to the lesser of:

  1. the unit’s unpaid common expenses and regular periodic or special assessments which accrued or came due during the 12 months immediately preceding the acquisition of title and for which payment in full has not been received by the association, or
  2. one percent of the original mortgage debt.

There’s been a good deal of controversy and discussion about whether this "safe harbor" prevents an association from trying to recover from the mortgagee other costs and expenses, such as amounts charged the association by law firms or other companies trying to collect the unpaid amounts from the delinquent unit owner.  Cooperative associations have, for the most part, not been involved in this battle as no "safe harbor" provisions existed in the statutes governing cooperatives.  

A very curious revision in the most recent version of 319 is the removal of the requirement that newly elected or appointed members of the board of directors of cooperative associations either:

  • sign a document certifying that they have read the association’s governing documents and will faithfully abide by those documents and his or her fiduciary responsibilities to the association in serving on the board or
  • attend and successfully complete a board member certification course that has been approved by Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

This requirement was incorporated into Chapter 718, which governs condominium associations, several years ago and was in the first version of HB 319 that I reviewed a few months ago.  I’m not sure exactly why this latest version of House Bill 319 no longer contains this requirement.

In any event, there’s much more to HB 319, and I’ll continue to post entries on its progress.

Stay tuned…

 

I’ve been spending a good deal of time recently attending the annual membership meetings of a number of the ROCs we represent and helping many of our communities prepare for these meetings.

I thought I’d list a few reminders for board members and managers of condominium and cooperative associations preparing for annual meetings:

  • The annual meeting is a meeting of the members–it’s not a board meeting.   While it’s common for the board members at the annual meeting to sit and face the unit owners, the directors should remember that it’s the membership that will be voting on the issues on the agenda.
  • The agenda should concisely and clearly list what business will be considered by the membership.  Only items on the agenda can be considered by the members.
  • Ballots are NOT proxies and cannot be used to establish a quorum.   While only twenty per cent of the unit owners are needed to cast ballots in order to conduct an election of the association’s directors, other items that require the approval of the unit owners at the annual meeting must occur at a meeting where there is a quorum of the membership’s voting interests present.  That quorum requirement is usually a simple majority of the voting interests.
  • As we all know, the quorum requirement can be satisfied through the use of proxies that allow a unit owner who does not attend the meeting to appoint a proxy holder to cast that absent unit owner’s vote.   Florida statutes governing condominium associations and cooperative associations allow both limited and general proxies to be used to help establish a quorum.

Occasionally, a cooperative or condominium association will have an annual meeting where the unit owners will not be voting on any item that would have to be included on a limited proxy form.  Communities that are fully funding reserves and conducting annual audits would thus not be voting to waive those requirements and might have no other issues requiring a unit owner vote requiring limited proxies.  However, managers and board members in these communities should still deliver a general proxy form to the unit owners and take great care to stress to the membership the importance of properly completing and returning those general proxies.   Keep in mind that if the unit owners decide that there’s no reason ton attend the annual meeting (since "nothing important" is happening) and not enough of those unit owners return completed proxies to the association, the association may not be able to conduct any official business at the annual meeting because a quorum was not obtained.

Hopefully, problems of this nature will remain extremely rare in Florida’s resident owned communities.

We’ll be posting the dates and locations of this season’s last set of seminars as well as several speaking engagements within the next two weeks and hope you’ll be able to attend one of those events.