Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Published April 30,
Hundreds of Floridians
who earlier this year told a statewide investigative committee about the
horrors of their abusive condo and homeowner boards are about to see a
Legislators approved many of the suggestions drawn from their comments,
and Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to sign them into law this week.
The changes mean condo owners can place religious symbols on their
doorposts, association money can't be used to silence owners who speak out
on subjects directors don't want government leaders to hear about and
anyone convicted of a felony can't serve on board until his or her civil
rights have been restored for at least five years.
"We did what we were supposed to do," said state Rep. Julio
Robaina, R-Miami, who was chairman of the nine-member House Select
Committee on Condominium & Homeowner Association Governance. "We
listened and made amendments [to laws] based on citizens telling us what
Between January and March, committee had hearings in Pembroke Pines, Miami
Beach, Tampa, Orlando and Tallahassee.
The bill passed 110-0 in the House two weeks ago, and 40-0 in the Senate
on Thursday. Robaina said Tuesday he expects Crist to sign it into law
this week. The governor's office said Crist would sign it as soon as he
receives it. The law will be effective Oct. 1.
"After five years of piecemeal legislation, we finally got a good
bill," Robaina said.
Robaina concentrated on condo issues during the 60-day legislative session
that ends on Friday. He expects to push homeowner association changes next
The bill with most homeowner changes, which wasn't sponsored by the
committee, remains stuck in the Senate. However, one bill that did pass
and is on its way to Crist gives homeowners the right to fly an American
flag any day, not just specific holidays.
Jan Bergemann, president of Deland-based Cyber Citizens for Justice, a
volunteer organization that pushes for laws protecting unit owners, said
he isn't disappointed the main homeowner bill appears dead.
"It's a convoluted bill; it has many flaws," he said. "No
matter what happens, we will see a big HOA bill next year with lots of
Bergemann is pleased with the condo measure.
"We're very happy. It does a lot for consumer protection," he
For example, he said it requires that a felon's civil rights be restored
at least five years before he or she is eligible to serve on a board.
In past years, Robaina's attempts at comprehensive changes got stuck in
battles between two opposing forces: those who want laws to rein in the
power of boards, primarily Robaina and Bergemann, and those who say they
are concerned with what is best for associations, including the Community
Association Leadership Lobby and Community Advocacy Network, or CAN, both
arms of large South Florida-based law firms.
Unlike the past, both sides mostly cooperated this year.
"CAN and its members should be very appreciative of Rep. Robaina
listening to our concerns and his willingness to ensure that Florida's
condominium owners are protected," said its executive director, Donna
Berger of the Katzman & Korr law firm.
For example, Berger said, legislators had planned to let owners waive
financial reporting requirements up to two years at a time so owners would
more frequently find out how their money is spent. But the final version
of the bill will let owners, at CAN's request, waive the requirement for
up to four years to save costs.
Said the Leadership Lobby's executive director, Yeline Goin of the Becker
& Poliakoff firm: "We do not agree with every provision but there
are some good provisions in the bill."
For example, she said the measure originally required high-rise condos to
have structural inspections every five years, but at the lobby's request
it lets owners vote to opt out every five years.
of condo, homeowner association laws before Legislature
HIGHLIGHTS OF CHANGES, APPROVED AND PENDING
Bills numbered 995 and 1378 passed in both the House
and Senate; 601, 679 and 1105 passed in the House and await possible
Management companies responsible for 10 or more units or a
budget of at least $100,000 must be licensed by the state. (Bill 995)
Board members are liable for monetary damages if their breach of duty
results in improper personal benefit. (995)
Anyone who defaces or destroys accounting records required
by law can be fined up to $5,000. (995)
Records requested by an owner can be provided by e-mail or on the
The board must place item on agenda if at least 20 percent of voting
interests request by petition. (995)
Co-owners of a unit can't serve on the board at the same time in
associations of more than 10 units. (995)
Anyone convicted in another state of a crime that would be a felony in
Florida can't serve on the board unless civil rights have been restored
for at least five years. (995)
Owners who owe back maintenance or assessment can't run for a board seat;
incumbents more than 90 days delinquent are deemed to have abandoned their
Directors charged with stealing or embezzling association money must be
removed from office but must be reinstated if cleared. (995)
Every building more than three stories must, at least every five years,
have the building inspected, although a majority can waive the requirement
every five years. (995)
An association can't refuse an owner's request to display a small
religious object on the mantle or door frame. (995)
Boards can't use association money to file lawsuits against owners who
speak out about association issues. (995)
A seven-member council is created to meet every five years to listen to
residents statewide and suggest changes to the Legislature. (995)
The state must provide sellers with a form for prospective buyers that
warns of their duties as a new owner. (995)
Regardless of the condominium documents, associations must have adequate
hazard insurance for full insurable value or replacement cost. (Bill 601)
HOMEOWNER ASSOCIATION CHANGES
Homeowners may display a portable American flag on a pole no more than 20
feet high in front of their houses any day, regardless of association
rules. Flags must meet size requirements. (Bill 1378)
The state condo ombudsman can help those in homeowner associations and
co-ops resolve disputes. (995)
Directors, officers and committee members can't receive a salary
or benefit financially from service to the association, other than
reimbursement for expenses or anything benefiting all owners. (Bill 679)
New directors must certify in writing within 30 days of taking
office that they have read the association's documents and rules. (679)
Sellers must warn prospective buyers they are liable for all
unpaid assessments owed the association. (679)