Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Published May 6, 2009
Condo law reform was somewhat limited this year, but what did pass could give owners and associations some financial relief.
A bill passed by the Florida Legislature would, among other things, clear up confusion about condo insurance requirements and provide associations more time to pay for major retrofitting projects.
"There is some great stuff in this bill for struggling associations," said Donna Berger, executive director of the Community Advocacy Network, which lobbies on the behalf of associations across the state. "Unfortunately, some lender reforms that would have helped associations struggling with the foreclosure crisis became collateral damage."
The bill has not yet reached Gov. Charlie Crist, but once it does, he has 15 days to sign it, pass it without signature or veto it. Bills are typically dealt with by the end of June.
If approved, the new law would:
Remove a requirement that associations be named as an additional payee on an individual unit owner's policy. This prevents an owner suffering a loss from having to obtain a board's signature to collect insurance proceeds.
No longer require associations to verify once a year whether a unit owner has individual insurance.
No longer provide associations the power to purchase an insurance policy on the behalf of a unit owner and assess them for costs. However, associations can still amend governing documents to provide those rights.
Clear up confusion surrounding rules for running for a seat on the board. It gives new directors 90 days after their election to turn in a required candidate certification form. Or new directors can attend a state-approved education course in lieu of signing the certification.
Add special assessments and fines to the category of delinquencies that make condo owners ineligible to serve on a board.
Extends the deadline for residential high-rises to retrofit common areas with sprinkler systems from the 2014 to 2025.
Repeals a back-up power source requirement for residential buildings with at least one public elevator. Some advocates are disappointed more bills did not pass this year.
"The failure of Florida's legislature to pass any serious community association reform is going to haunt the State of Florida for a minimum of 12 months, when they go back in session again," said Jan Bergemann, president of Cybercitizens for Justice, a Florida advocacy group for unit and homeowner rights.
"Removing requirements for safety devices and retrofitting is definitely not something I would be proud of," Bergemann said. "Especially considering the many elderly folks living in these communities."
On the other hand, says Berger, allowing associations more time to pay for costly retrofits will help keep more people in their homes who could otherwise fall into foreclosure trying to pay the special assessments for the retrofits.
Key bills left dead in Tallahassee included the creation of a special condo police force to investigate community association fraud and one providing associations authority to ban delinquent owners from pools, club houses and other common areas.
Both Berger and Bergemann lament the failure of a bill to force lenders to provide more help for associations with units in the foreclosure process. Both want banks to pay for maintenance and upkeep of units while in foreclosure.
"Florida's bankers and their lobbyists won this battle, but not the war," Bergemann said.
Vasquez can be reached at:
or at 954-356-4558 (Broward) or 561-243-6686 (Palm
Beach County). His condo column runs every Wednesday in the Local
section and at www.sunsentinel.com/condos.
You also can read his consumer column every Monday in Your Money and at www.sunsentinel.com/vasquez