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March 2016

CAI-FLA 2016 Florida Legislative Session Report

CAI-FLA 2016 Florida Legislative Session Report

March 14, 2016

Working in efficient cohesion, the dedicated volunteer advocates of CAI’s Florida Legislative Alliance (CAI-FLA) protected Florida’s common interest ownership communities during the just-completed 2016 Legislative Session. For CAI-FLA, a multi-disciplinary group made up of 21 volunteer Delegates from across the state, the focus is always on the millions of residents and resident-volunteers who choose to live and invest their money, time and hearts in Florida’s diverse and vibrant neighborhoods. This Session, they were the winners.

The 2016 Florida Legislature could have produced a far different outcome when both Chambers adjourned sine die around 7 P.M. on Friday, March 11. In fact, when the earlier-than-usual Session began in January, good money was on the possibility of many damaging changes being made to Florida’s common interest ownership statutes — Chapters 718, 719, and 720.

CAI-FLA Delegates identified and tracked 44 bills that would impact community associations in some manner, virtually all of them detrimentally. That was only the very beginning. Delegates were assigned the various pieces of proposed legislation and tasked with diligently analyzing and summarizing what that impact would truly be. Discussions among the entire group provided cross-disciplinary and multi-regional insights, leading to adopting positions on whether to support, oppose, or offer their expertise to the bill’s sponsor on how to mitigate and “fix” the proposed legislation. Throughout the legislative session, Delegates held weekly conference calls to discuss what had occurred that week and how to best address the week ahead. Besides legislative initiatives filed as bills, this session had an inordinate number of amendments trying to become attached to all sorts of other bills. Along the way, Delegates found community associations-related amendments being filed to bills as diverse as those dealing with ad valorem taxation, regulated professions, etc.

CAI-FLA was at the forefront addressing all the issues, high and low profile. Representing our very diverse membership, CAI-FLA Delegates carefully and collaboratively engaged all stakeholders to affect the best results possible all CAI members. There were “high profile” issues that received a great deal of publicity and had numerous legislative committee hearings, such as the 2016 version of the estoppel certificate “reform” fight. The House bill, HB 203, had three separate Committee hearings, and a compromise was finally reached in the final hearing within the House Judiciary Committee. However, the bill was never heard again, as some of the original proposers of the bill were not interested in passing the bill after it was amended to remove their “pay-at-closing” provision. The Senate “estoppel bill,” SB 722, passed one committee and was never placed on another agenda, so it failed accordingly.

Another bill, SB 1122, would have regulated HOAs, and collected fees from homeowners to do so. This legislation would have made other changes to HOAs, such as implementing mandatory binding arbitration of HOA disputes, including disputes related to assessments; removing the ability of an HOA to lien for fines; creating annual reporting requirements to DBPR, etc. This bill had one committee hearing and CAI-FLA, alone, offered testimony raising concerns. The bill was voted down in committee – a rarity in the Florida legislative process. A few weeks later, the sponsor attempted to run an amendment, containing much of the same language, into a bill in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Once again CAI-FLA, alone, offered testimony, and the amendment was withdrawn. The sponsor filed the amendment to several bills on the Floor in the final days of session. One of the bills, the Department of Business and Professions legislative package (HB1187/SB1050) passed the House after numerous community associations-related amendments were filed and then withdrawn. The bill was available to be taken up at any time by the Senate. The Session ended with CAI-FLA communicating concerns to numerous Senators, and the bill (with community associations-related amendments filed to it) sitting on the Calendar of bills available for a vote, was not taken up.

Additional legislative proposals CAI’s Florida advocacy team successfully addressed include:

• Opposed changes to adopting additional rental restrictions; (SB 792, subsequently adopted into SB 1292);

• Sought to refine problematic proposed legislation attempting to create a method for absentee owners to name a “liaison” for law enforcement to contact should inhabitants of a short term rental property become unruly — “spring break” challenges being experienced primarily by beach-front communities. (Failed amendment to SB 1292);

• Opposed the mandating of certain HOA and condominium associations to maintain a website and prescribing what information must be made available on the site; (HB 1357, amended to HB 1405, and failed amendment to SB 1292);

• Sought to exempt HOA covenants and restrictions from the Marketable Record Title Act (MRTA) (HB 7031, and failed amendment to SB 1292);

• Supported the responsible elimination of the “less than 50 units” exemption requiring audited financial reporting (SB 1292 prior to objectionable amendments, HB 1405 prior to objectionable amendments. amended into SB 1050);

• Opposed provisions that would have eliminated the ability for HOAs to use a third party to collect unpaid assessments; (HB 1357, similar language attempted to be amended into SB 1292, HB 1405);

• Opposed requiring HOAs to set up a payment plan for unpaid assessments before utilizing a third party collector, and after 24 months the debt to the association seemingly disappears…some type of “statute of limitations” on unpaid assessments. (HB 1357, failed amendment into SB 1292, HB 1405)

To get a feel for the complicated and burdensome legislation proposed during the session that CAI-FLA advocated against by working the halls of the Capitol in Tallahassee nearly every day, review the content of these:

HB 653 by Cortes

SB 1122 by Hays

HB 1357 by La Rosa

These are just three of the 44 pieces of proposed legislation CAI-FLA was actively engaged in during the Session…and don’t forget those multiple amendments being attached to bills like gnats on honey on a humid Florida Summer night!

As CAI members, you are each an invaluable part of our team. Thank you for being engaged, knowledgeable, diligent and passionate. Only together, with that level of commitment, can we foster wonderful neighborhoods and resilient, livable communities.

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