Florida Legislative Update: Key Laws Affecting HOAs, Condos and Cooperatives

Article Courtesy of The National Law Review

By Christopher I. Miller of Varnum LLP

Published November 19, 2023


With Florida legislation shifting frequently, condo and HOA boards should be aware of the various new laws adopted by the State of Florida that are likely to impact how their communities function or otherwise operate. The following is a short summary of several of the recently adopted bills that focus on governance in associations:

House Bill 919

Effective October 1, 2023, House Bill 919, also known as the “Homeowners Association Bill of Rights,” introduces several provisions to the normal operations of an HOA. Board meeting notices must now include specific agenda items, except in the case of emergencies. Deposits that are collected from a member for construction purposes must be kept separately and returned within 30 days after completion of the project, looking much more like the requirements for security deposits in the rental of real property. Broad protections have been added such as officers, directors and managers are prohibited from soliciting or accepting anything of value without providing consideration in return, except for minor food expenses or trade fair-related goods or services. The immediate removal from office is now mandated for officers or directors charged with specific crimes, including forgery, theft/embezzlement, destruction of records and obstruction of justice. Disclosure of conflicts of interest are required annually for developer-appointed board members and officers, as well as for all directors and officers before voting on matters that are influenced by the conflict. HOAs that exercise their long-standing right to impose reasonable fines for violations must hold mandatory hearings before the independent hearing committee before the fine may be made due and owing. Additionally, a new section, Section 720.3065, has been added to address fraudulent voting activities and associated penalties, classifying them as first-degree misdemeanors. These provisions aim to enhance transparency, accountability and fairness within homeowners’ associations in Florida.

House Bill 437

Effective July 1, 2023, House Bill 437 introduces provisions that limit the ability of HOAs in Florida to restrict the installation, display or storage of certain items on parcels. Regardless of any association rules or covenants, associations cannot prohibit parcel owners or tenants from installing, displaying or storing items that are not visible from the frontage or adjacent parcels, such as artificial turf, boats, flags and recreational vehicles. This is likely to cause a lot of problems in HOAs, especially for communities that have homes that abut a body of water and are visible from the other side of the water. Finally, homeowners have the right to display up to two flags, including the United States flag, the official flag of Florida, military branch flags, the POW-MIA flag and first responder flags, in a respectful manner, including on freestanding flag poles. While the right to fly these flags is not new, its expansion to two flags and the expanded list of flags that may be flown are substantial changes that every HOA needs to be aware of.

Senate Bill 154

Senate Bill 154 introduces several changes and requirements for condominiums and cooperatives in Florida. Several of the key provisions is the mandatory structural inspection, now referred to as a “milestone inspection,” which assesses the life-safety and adequacy of a building’s structural components that have been changed or clarified in some way. The inspection must be conducted by a licensed architect or engineer and identifies necessary maintenance, repairs or replacements. Milestone inspections are required every 10 years for buildings that are three stories or higher and reach 30 years of age. Additionally, the bill establishes deadlines, exemptions and provisions for proximity to saltwater and acceptance of previous inspection reports.

The bill also introduces updates to the definitions and requirements for the Structural Integrity Reserve Study (SIRS) in condominiums and cooperatives. The SIRS is a mandatory study conducted for buildings that are three stories or higher as defined in the Florida Building Code, focusing on evaluating various components related to the building’s structural integrity and safety. The study identifies necessary repairs, replacements or maintenance tasks for components such as the roof, structure, fireproofing, plumbing and more. It establishes guidelines for reserve funding based on the findings of the study and sets deadlines for completing the study. Certain components are now exempt from the SIRS requirements while the limitation on waiving SIRS funding has not changed. “Traditional” reserves (roof, painting and paving) now require a majority vote of the total voting interests to reduce or waive. The bill also addresses official records requests and the distribution of inspection reports to unit owners. Finally, disclosure guidelines have been added to ensure potential buyers of units are fully apprised of the integratory of the building and provide the prospective buyer with the opportunity to cancel or void the contract.

Overall, Senate Bill 154 introduces much needed clarification to the regulations adopted last year as a means of ensuring the structural integrity and safety of buildings in Florida. The requirement of milestone inspections and SIRS to identify, address and ensure funding for necessary repairs and maintenance for condominiums and cooperatives clearly remains at the forefront of Florida politics.