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Condominium and Homeowner Associations: Changes in Florida Law

A vast majority of Floridians live in communities which are governed by condominium and homeowners associations. In July 2010, major changes became effective in the laws affecting these associations. As we speak, the legislature is considering additional statutory changes which could affect the interaction between property owners and these associations.

The major changes implemented by the July 2010 legislation address the rights of associations to collect past due assessments. For example, associations can now collect past due assessments directly from tenants who occupy the property subject to unpaid assessments. Associations also now have the power to prohibit owners who are more than 90 days behind in payment of dues from using the recreational facilities and other common areas. Associations, however, cannot terminate utility services to these properties under the 2010 legislative changes. One of the issues that came up was whether associations could terminate or cancel cable television service. The question was whether cable service was considered a utility and therefore protected from cancellation. There is a bill currently pending in the legislature, Senate Bill 712, to provide cable television and internet access may be canceled to condominium units whose dues are more than 90 days past due.

Another change affects the relative position of associations and lenders in foreclosure actions. Previously, lenders were liable for up to six months of unpaid dues or up to one percent of the loan amount, whichever was less. Now, they are liable for up to twelve months of unpaid dues or one percent of the loan amount, whichever is less.

Associations may also now impose fines on property owners of up to $100.00 per day for noncompliance with a maximum fine of $1,000, with 14 days notice and a hearing. Board members are now required to complete certification or an approved course within 90 days of being elected to the association board.

Many of these changes were generated because of the recent downturn in the economy. They are designed to protect non-defaulting property owners from having to carry the burden of non paying owners. Many of the new bills this year are being proposed by legislators from South Florida where the crisis is greatest.

Other proposed legislation relating to real property includes tax reforms and changes in the foreclosure process. Currently, a property’s assessed value can only increase by 3 percent per year, but must continue to increase until it reaches the market value. There are several bills proposing to alter this rule. Another proposed bill would allow non-judicial foreclosures on commercial property. This would increase the speed on commercial foreclosures and help relieve the court of having to deal with this group of foreclosures. Instead, commercial foreclosures would be handled by a trustee. Another proposed bill would allow tenants at least 90 days notice before they needed to vacate distressed residential property.