Our 2020 Legislative Guide is designed to help your volunteer board and management professionals understand and implement the new laws which impact community associations each year. Given the significant percentage of Florida’s population which resides in shared ownership communities, we are virtually guaranteed to have numerous association bills sponsored each year with some of those proposals becoming new laws.
Florida’s 2020 Legislative Session produced the long-awaited criminalization of fraudulent emotional support animal requests. As of July 1, people who submit fraudulent documentation to support their request for a service animal or an emotional support animal (ESA) in a Florida community or who otherwise hold themselves out as being physically or mentally disabled when they are not, risk being imprisoned, fined and/or ordered to perform community service. Already we are seeing an encouraging trend that when associations use experienced counsel to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the requesting party, insufficient documentation becomes more apparent and dubious requests are often withdrawn.
There are also new legal protections for condominium, cooperative and HOA residents to park a law enforcement vehicle in their communities as well as new rights for HOA residents to use fireworks on the 4th of July, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day regardless of any HOA restrictions to the contrary.
One of the newly passed laws declares void and unenforceable all “discriminatory restrictions” (e.g. those based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, or physical disability) contained in any recorded title transaction. Some older association documents may contain pernicious, decades-old discriminatory use restrictions that can now easily be removed by an amendment approved by a majority vote of the board of directors. With our 6-month hurricane season in Florida, the new law which amends Section 631.57 of the Florida Statutes to increase the amount of coverage for property insurance claims by a condominium, cooperative or homeowners’ association under the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA) from $100,000 to $200,000 multiplied by the number of units is a positive change.
Lastly, associations operating “55 and Over” communities will welcome the news that a new law deletes the prior registration requirements (a letter to the Florida Commission on Human Relations once every two years, with a fine of up to $500 if they failed to do so) for these communities and eliminates related forms, fees, and fines.
While many of the foregoing new laws are helpful, the community association legislation passed during Florida’s 2020 Legislative Session unfortunately could not address the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic as the Session ended right when the health crisis erupted. Volunteer boards who had never grappled with a pandemic before made impactful decisions to close certain amenities, restrict the flow of visitors into the community and marshaled the resources needed to heighten sanitization and implement other safety measures needed to protect their residents. All of this was done at times in the face of vocal resident opposition and a lack of clarity and support from government officials.
It is CALL’s mission, however, to ensure that the crop of 2021 association bills will incorporate some of the lessons we’ve learned from the COVID-19 crisis and provide new tools to assist volunteer boards in the coming years. In the interim, there are steps your community can take by amending your governing documents and implementing necessary policies and protocols to provide you with greater flexibility and a wider range of options when you are inevitably confronted with the next challenge life brings your way.