Available 7 Days/Week       MON - FRI  8am - 7pm       SAT - SUN  10am – 6pm
Call us (754) 701-3300
Apply Now

Long list of HOA reforms signed into law by Gov. DeSantis

Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill that cracks down on controversial enforcement practices by homeowner associations while requiring greater transparency by those associations.

Among a long list of measures, the new law bars HOAs from fining homeowners for failing to bring in a trash can within 24 hours before or after a collection time.

It also prohibits HOAs from fining residents for leaving holiday decorations up longer than allowed by governing documents unless a written notice is issued.

The bill was unanimously approved by the full House and Senate in March with revisions suggested by lobbyists for groups representing homeowner associations and community managers who objected to elements in a version filed in January they claimed were too restrictive.

The bill was introduced by state Rep. Tiffany Esposito, a Republican who represents part of Lee County, as part of a series of reforms stemming from the arrests of five Miami-Dade residents accused in 2022 of engaging in a complex scheme to steal millions in monthly association fees paid by homeowners at the Hammocks.

Four of the five arrested were current or former members of the Hammocks’ governing board.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel wrote about the case, and how revisions to reform were watered down by lobbyists for the community management industry, in Condo Wars, an investigative series that was published last fall.

Esposito said in a statement to the Sun Sentinel that the law “includes some of the strongest reforms in state history.”

She added, “These associations are rightfully under the microscope because of their impact on the greatest investment Floridians will ever make, their home. Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ signature, we have empowered homeowners and increased transparency and accountability across homeowners associations in our state.”

The new law, which takes effect on July 1, aims to protect homeowners from excessive fines by HOAs that too often lead to late fees, attorneys fees, and ultimately liens that force residents out of their homes.

Carlos Villlalobos, a Hammocks homeowner who was disappointed when a 44-page reform bill in 2023 was reduced to 16 pages before it was approved, called the current bill “a step forward.”

“We are particularly grateful for incorporating specific language that allows access to the official records of an HOA, as well as the new safeguards for the election process within HOAs,” he said in a written statement emailed to the Sun Sentinel.

“However, it still fails to address the root of the problem,” he wrote. “It does not provide enough teeth to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and/or the authorities to pursue the bad actors.”

While a provision barring certain fines from becoming liens was stripped from the original bill, the new law requires boards to give homeowners 14 days’ written notice of their right to a hearing to contest notices of violations.

It also requires HOAs to provide written notice of the findings within seven days after the hearing that spells out how the homeowner can pay a fine or serve a suspension, and gives homeowners 30 days after delivery of the notice to pay the fine.

If a parcel owner cures the violation before the hearing or as specified in the written notice, no fine or suspension can be imposed. Parcel owners cannot be charged with attorneys’ fees until after the due date for the fine and time for an appeal has expired.

The new law provides criminal penalties for HOA members and directors who knowingly and willfully block access to official records at least twice within 12 months with the intent of causing harm to the association or one or more of its members.

The new law also establishes that acceptance or solicitation of a kickback by an HOA officer, director or manager is a third-degree felony and subject to monetary damages.

Aiding election fraud becomes a first-degree misdemeanor.

It requires HOA directors and community association managers to obtain a minimum amount of education every two years. Newly elected board members will have 90 days to complete courses covering financial literacy, transparency record keeping, levying of fines and notice and meeting requirements.

HOAs with 100 or more parcels must create a website and post digital copies of official records online in a form that can be downloaded to a mobile device.

Contact information for management companies must be published on association websites.

HOAs are barred from banning work vehicles with signage, as well as personally owned pickup trucks, from parking in driveways or community parking lots.

HOAs are also barred from regulating what homeowners can place inside of their homes that’s not visible from outside the home.

The new law prohibits rules allowing HOAs to review plans to install a central air-conditioning unit, refrigeration unit, heating or ventilation system that’s not visible from the front of the property, an adjacent parcel, an adjacent common area, or a community golf course if such a system is “substantially similar” to others approved by the HOA.

The original version of the bill would have prohibited associations from imposing liens on homes for unpaid fines over violations relating to lawns, landscaping, grass maintenance and traffic violations.

Lobbyists for the Community Association Institute, representing HOA boards as well as contractors hired by boards, and Chief Executive Officers of Management Companies, took issue with the proposal in January.

“People move into communities to live there for a quality of life and a cost of living that they like,” said Mark Anderson, representing the management companies’ organization, in the bill’s first hearing before the House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee. “These rules are the means by which that cost of living and quality of life are protected and liening is a major part of that.”

The final version of the bill eliminated the ban on liens.

Also eliminated was a proposal to require approval from 75% of homeowners before an HOA could increase regular assessments by more than 10% a year unless necessary for property protection or public safety, or increase special assessments more than 5% over budgeted gross expenses for any particular year.

Other proposals that did not make it into the final bill included a requirement homeowners be allowed to appeal decisions by HOAs or their architectural review committees.

The Florida chapter of CAI, according to a summary written for its members, “was able to negotiate language that resulted in much more reasonable, measured reforms that will be more helpful and less punitive on community associations.”

Nothing in the new law provides additional authority to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to investigate wrongdoing, as advocates of HOA reforms have requested for decades.

Villalobos said he would have liked to see language requiring annual audits of HOA records by DBPR “to ensure they are maintained in accordance with Florida law.”

He also would liked to have seen a provision barring use of HOA funds to pay for the criminal defense of HOA members accused of HOA-related crimes, he said.

Ron Hurtibise covers business and consumer issues for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He can be reached by phone at 954-356-4071, on Twitter @ronhurtibise or by email moc.lenitnesnus@esibitruhr ta.

#fortlauderdale, #fortlauderdalemortgage, #fortlauderdalemortgagelender, #fortlauderdalemortgagerates #fortlauderdalemortgagebroker