mandatory homeowners associations

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.

Florida’s Governor has signed into law Senate Bill 807 which contains very important changes to the laws governing resident owned communities. I’ll discuss many of those in future entries to this blog but since we’re now into hurricane season, I thought I’d first highlight the creation of Florida Statute Sections 719.128 and 720.316, both of which are entitled "Association emergency powers".

These new sections allow the boards of directors in cooperative associations and mandatory homeowners associations to exercise certain powers and take certain actions in response to damage caused by an event for which a "state of emergency"is declared under Florida law in the area where the community is located, unless specifically prohibited by the association’s governing documents.

These powers and actions include the following:

  • Conducting, canceling, or rescheduling board or membership meetings after notice of the meetings and board decisions is provided in "as practicable a manner as possible," which may be by numerous methods, including "any other means the board deems appropriate under the circumstances."
  • Designating assistant officers who are not directors
  • Relocating the association’s principal office or designating an alternative principal office
  • Entering into agreements with counties or municipalities to assist with debris removal
  • Implementing a disaster plan which may include turning on or shutting off electricity, water, sewer, or security systems and air conditioners for association buildings

There are other important emergency powers that I’ll discuss in my next entry.

I want to close with a few additional points:

  • These new sections extend to boards of directors in cooperatives and mandatory homeowners associations similar powers that were granted to condominium association boards several years ago.
  • The powers must be exercised so as to be consistent with Florida Statute 617.0830.
  • Included in the emergency powers for the board of directors of a cooperative association is the power to require the evacuation of the cooperative property in the event of a mandatory evacuation order in the area where the community is located. If a unit owner or other occupant of a cooperative fails to evacuate the cooperative property after the board has required that evacuation, the association is immune from liability for injury to persons or property arising from such failure. In other words, a unit owner or occupant remains in the home at his or her own risknot the cooperative association’s.  

These two new statutes become effective July 1, 2014 and I’ll discuss some additional powers and limitations in my next blog entry.

I was just forwarded a press release from Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation announcing the creation of its website for mandatory homeowners’ associations to register online.

As my blog readers may recall, Florida’s legislature recently passed a law that for the first time requires all mandatory homeowners’ associations (governed under Chapter 720 of the Florida Statutes) to provide certain information to the State.  Community Association Managers should remember that it appears from this legislation that any CAM that manages an HOA is responsible for filing this information.

The content of this press release follows:

To: Members of the media

Date: September 27, 2013

From: DBPR Communications Office, 850.922.8981

 

Registration website for HOA and Community Association Managers live

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) today launched the website where homeowners associations (HOA) and Community Association Managers (CAM) are now required to register. The website was created as part of recently passed state legislation (Chapter 720, FS), which requires community association managers, community association management firms or HOAs, in the absence of a CAM, to report information about the associations before the deadline of November 22, 2013.

 

“We’ve worked really hard to create a website that collects all of the data required by law to track the number of homeowners associations in the state,” said Secretary Ken Lawson. “It’s important that associations become aware of the new reporting requirement and meet the deadline.”

 

During the 2013 Legislative Session, HB 7119 made several changes to HOA governance, including the requirement for HOA associations to register with DBPR. Additionally, the legislation provided DBPR with authority to take administrative action against a community association manager’s license for violations of state laws relating to condominiums, cooperatives and homeowners’ associations that are committed during the course of performing contractual community management services.

 

Associations may now register with the Department at www.myfloridalicense.com/hoa. If individuals have any questions throughout the one-time registration process, they may contact the Department at 800.226.9101.

 

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s mission is to license efficiently and regulate fairly. The Department licenses and regulates more than one million businesses and professionals ranging from hotels and restaurants, real estate agents and certified public accountants to veterinarians, contractors and cosmetologists. For more information, please visit www.MyFloridaLicense.com.

We’ll next have to wait and see exactly what type of curriculum the DBPR’s developed to meet the new laws requiring newly appointed board members in cooperatives and mandatory HOA’s to meet the educational or certification requirements previously only applicable to board members in condominium associations.   That’s an entry for another day.

 

Followers of this blog know that I frequently caution that almost all board meetings in resident owned communities must be properly noticed and open to association members.  There are specific provisions prohibiting board members from meeting "behind closed doors" in the statutes governing condominium associations, cooperative associations, and mandatory homeowners associations.

While it’s clear that these statutory provisions focus on ensuring that association members are provided with adequate notice of matters that are to be considered by the board of directors, there’s another very important consideration that can be illustrated by the recent difficulties faced by Susan G. Komen  For the Cure after its decision to no longer offer grants to Planned Parenthood for mammograms was made public.

From what I’ve read about the initial decision, there was little if any input requested from or given by  the many local organizations that help fund. Komen .  In fact, it appears that some of Komen’s board members were unaware of the decision–which had been made in the latter part of 2011

As everyone knows, once Komen’s decision became public, a firestorm of negative publicity erupted–and even though Komen apparently reversed its decision shortly after the media picked up on the story, I have to believe that most of us will no longer view Komen in quite the same way as we did before all of this occurred.

My assumption is that no law prevented Komen’s leadership from meeting "behind closed doors" when it concluded that the grants to Planned Parenthood be discontinued.   When a board is allowed to isolate itself from its members it’s all too easy–and unfortunately all too common–to make decisions in a vacuum that prevents any factors or considerations other than those of the board members from being heard..  If one or two of those board members are particularly overbearing, it’s not too much of a stretch to see how a ROC board could find itself regretting a decision made "behind closed doors" once that decision is made public and legitimate concerns of the members are finally heard.

This is a very important "side effect"  of the laws requiring open board meetings and member input at those meetings–no "vacuum" can exist if those laws are followed.   Every resident owned community benefits when decisions are made only after the members have been given the opportunity to have their say.  

I wonder if Komen’s leadership wishes it had given its supporters that opportunity before making its initial decision on the grants to Planned Parenthood

We just finished a busy two week stretch of very well attended seminars.   Thanks to our friends at Paradise Bay Estates in Bradenton, Imperial Bonita Estates in Bonita Springs, Village at Riverwalk in North Port, and Hammock Estates in Sebring for hosting those events.

One of the topics we discussed involved how to balance the rights of a member of a resident owned community to inspect and copy the association’s "official records" with the rights of each resident of the community to have certain information remain confidential and protected.

I wanted to highlight several important points made during my presentation on this topic:

  • Almost any document currently located in the association’s offices falls within the definition of an "official record" under the Florida Statutes governing condominium, cooperative, and mandatory homeowners’ associations.
  • However, certain documents that are "official’ records are nonetheless protected or :"exempt" and even if a member requests to inspect those documents the association shall not allow that member access to those records. 
  • Florida’s legislators recently amended the statutes governing condominium and mandatory homeowners’ associations and added several new categories of these protected or "exempt" documents.   However, the legislators failed to amend the statute governing cooperative associations and, as a result, a member of a cooperative association may still be entitled to inspect personnel records as well as obtain information about other residents–such as email addresses, telephone and fax numbers, and northern addresses–that are now clearly "off limits" to members of condominium associations or mandatory homeowners associations.
  • All managers and board members should remember that a member cannot simply show up in the office one day and demand that he immediately be allowed to inspect one or more of the association’s "official records".  There is a specific procedure that is to be followed under Florida’s statutes and all members should be required to follow those procedures.

We always suggest that any request to inspect an association’s "official records" be immediately forwarded to the association’s attorney.  The attorney can help the association properly evaluate and respond to request and assist in ensuring that the association complies with Florida’s statutory requirements while not violating its members’ privacy rights.

The dates, locations and topics for our January seminars will be announced within the next week.  Stay tuned and try to keep warm!

Most ROC managers and board members know that Florida statutes governing condominium associations and cooperative associations allow directors to attend a board meeting by phone.  

While the statutes governing mandatory homeowners associations don’t provide for an HOA board member to appear by phone at a board meeting, if the HOA is a not-for-profit corporation (and most are), the provisions of Florida Statute Section 617.0820(4) may apply and allow HOA directors to participate by "any means of communication by which all directors participating may simultaneously hear each other during the meeting".

The statutory provisions governing condominium and cooperative associations focus on the ability the directors not attending the meeting in person to hear and be heard by the board members attending in person as well as the unit owners present at the board meeting.  Both statutes (Section 718.112(2)(b)5 for condominium associations and 719.106(1)(b)5 for cooperative associations), in contrast to Section 617.0820(4), specifically refer to a "telephone conference" and the use of a "telephone speaker".

But what about Skype?

Many of my blog readers may know that Skype is a free computer program that allows its users to speak at no expense with other Skype users through their computers via the internet.  

One of the manufactured housing cooperatives we represent was thinking about using Skype as a substitute for phone conference calls for directors who could not appear in person for board meetings.   At the time, I hadn’t sampled Skype and felt that the process might be too cumbersome and was concerned about statute’s specific reference to the use of a telephone.

That was several months ago–before I retired the old but trusty laptop that my younger daughter had handed down to me and purchased a new laptop with a built-in web camera feature.   I thus had an excuse to try Skype and was very impressed with the audio and visual quality of the connection (no doubt to the amusement and mild annoyance of my daughters and one of my nieces who were the first three recipients of my Skype "test run" and who of course have used Skype for several years).

I visited Skype’s website and it appears that Skype users can easily arrange for conference calls that will allow everyone on the call to hear and be heard.   I can certainly picture board meetings where there will be a laptop (rather than a telephone speaker) in the center of the table at the ROC clubhouse where the meeting is being held–all at no cost to the association other than the ongoing monthly charge for internet service and, if a member’s laptop is not on that clubhouse table, the one-time charge for the association to purchase a laptop.

While using Skype rather than a telephone speaker may not technically constitute a "telephone conference," I would certainly hope that as long as all board members and unit owners can hear and be heard, a board meeting where some directors attend by Skype would meet the statutory requirements.

I’m can’t wait for my next chat with that forward thinking ROC.

The Florida Legislature substantially revised several sections of our state’s Condominium Act last year.   One of the important revisions focused on the length of time a unit owner could serve as a board member without seeking re-election.   Effective October 1, 2008, the terms of all members serving on condominium association boards were considered to expire at the next annual meeting unless the majority of the unit owners approved an amendment to the association’s bylaws (or confirmed an existing bylaw provision) that would provide for "staggered" two year terms.   This revision to Florida Statute Section 718.112(2)(d)1, was accompanied by the rather curious statutory amendment found in F.S. Section 718.112((2)(d)3 which required that any candidate for a board position sign a "certification form" attesting that he or she had read and understood, to the best of his or her ability, the association’s governing documents, the provisions of F.S. Chapter 718 and any "applicable rules".

Needless to say, these amendments created quite a stir among board members and managers in resident owned communities.   I received more than my share of calls and emails from ROC board members and managers asking whether their particular communities were subject to these new revisions.

At least for the immediate future, the answer to whether a particular ROC is subject to these  restrictions on the length of terms for its board members and the certification form requirement turns on whether that ROC’s community association is a condominium association as opposed to a cooperative association, mandatory homeowners association or some other type of corporation:

  • Condominium Associations fall within Florida Statute 718 and must comply with the statutory revisions to Section 718.112 governing the length of terms for board members and the certification form.
  • Cooperative Associations are primarily governed by Florida Statute Chapter 719.   For the most part, Chapter 719 remained unchanged during the 2008 and 2009 Florida legislative sessions and for now residents of ROCs that are cooperatives continue to have the ability to decide for themselves the length of terms for board members and do not have to sign certification forms in order to run for positions of their boards.
  • Florida Statute Chapter 720, which governs mandatory homeowners associations, also survived the 2008 and 2009 sessions of the Florida Legislature with no term length restrictions and no certification form requirement.

However, the 2010 legislative session looms in the not so distant future and I fully expect that attempts will be made to bring greater uniformity to the statutes governing the various types of community associations.  I’m not certain what will happen with the certification requirement but I won’t be surprised if both cooperatives and mandatory homeowners associations find themselves subject to some sort of restrictions on term lengths by this time next year.   I’ll keep you posted.