Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Published May 14,
Florida lawmakers have passed new legislation
regulating condominium and homeowners communities that could change daily
life in association-governed neighborhoods.
The bills, now awaiting Gov. Rick Scott's signature
or veto, would tighten laws passed last year that give community
associations more power to crack down on owners who fall behind in
maintenance payments and create more parity in laws governing condos and
Under the proposed reforms, condo and homeowner
associations could demand full rent from tenants of delinquent owners.
This would help cash-strapped communities combat owners who rent or lease
units and collect cash from tenants without bothering to pay their share
of maintenance payments.
"It's about time this was clarified," said
Sidney Wicks, a board member of the Saturnia Homeowners Association in
Boca Raton, which governs 405 households. "One of the worst feelings
is when homeowners [who] stop paying their association dues keep the
income from renting out their house, causing an assessment where their
fellow homeowners must make up the difference in delinquent association
But critics say the bills don't go far enough to
help struggling communities trying to survive a bad economy and housing
"It's another bad bill throwing some
breadcrumbs to owners but otherwise trampling on the owners' contractual
rights," said Jan Bergemann, president of Cyber Citizens for Justice,
an advocacy group representing Florida community associations. "The
bill does nothing to deal with the financial crisis caused by unpaid dues
and foreclosures." Bergemann supports law that treats new owners
equally. For example, individuals who buy a condo unit via an auction or
short sale would likely be responsible to pay all past due maintenance
fees, while a financial institution may only be liable for up to 12 months
of back dues or one percent of original mortgage, whichever is less. He
believes both the individual and bank should be liable for all amounts
owed to the association.
The reforms were hammered out last week by both the
Florida House of Representatives and the Senate in the form of bill HB
1195, which is expected to be sent to Gov. Rick Scott in the coming days
for his signature or veto. The governor would have 15 days after delivery
to sign them, making them law, or veto them. If he does nothing, the
reforms would still become law.
"The bills once again provide steps in the
right direction," said Donna Berger, of the community association law
firm Katzman, Garfinkel and Berger and a guest blogger for the Sun
Sentinel. "Right now there is much for condo and HOA members to like,
including the newfound ability of HOA boards to keep convicted felons off
their boards and for HOA members to speak on any agenda item at HOA
meetings without having to petition the board to put that language in
Lobbying groups, such as the Community Advocacy
Network and the Community Association Leadership Lobby, largely helped
draft the proposed laws. "We have no reason to believe that the bill
will be vetoed," said Yeline Goin, co-executive director of CALL.
Among the highlights of the new reforms:
Condo, homeowners and cooperative associations would
be able to demand full monthly rent from tenants in delinquent properties.
A similar law was passed last year but left unclear whether associations
could collect partial or full rent. Landlords would be banned from
punishing tenants for complying with the law and a common form would be
created for associations to send to tenants explaining the law.
Homeowner associations would be able to ban felons
from serving on boards, as condo associations are allowed to do.
Condo board members would be able to show proof of
attending state-approved education courses within a year before or 90 days
after taking the post, rather than sign a form stating they have read
Boards could ban delinquent owners from common
areas, such as pools and club houses, without holding a hearing, if it is
a result of failure to pay assessments. A hearing must still be held when
an association wishes to ban an owner from a common area for violating a
governing document rule, such as creating loud noise or disturbances at a
would be allowed to speak at board meetings on any item on the agenda, no
longer requiring a petition from a number of owners to do so.
Daniel Vasquez can be reached at email@example.com
or 954-356-4219 or 561-243-6686. His condo column runs Wednesdays in
Your Money and at sunsentinel.com/condos. Check out Daniel's Condos
& HOAs blog for news, information and tips related to life in
community associations at www.sunsentinel.com/condoblog.
You can also read his consumer column Mondays in Your Money and at www.sunsentinel.com/vasquez.