COVID-19: Resources and Insights

The latest news, information, and regulations surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are changing fast. We are taking crucial steps to protect everyone’s safety while at the same time providing the continued excellent legal services our clients deserve and have come to expect from Haber Law.  

The Haber Law attorneys are here to support our colleagues and clients as this crisis has undoubtedly impacted business operations in various ways. The information included on this resource page is meant to inform and does not constitute as  legal advice. 

Contact our experienced attorneys directly for more information.

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The Florida Bar has provided a listing of Court and Bar announcements, member resources and Bar event changes that may affect Florida Bar members, as well as general information for Floridians affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

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Insights

Legislative Update for Condominium Associations and HOAs

This past summer, the Florida Senate implemented several Senate Bills that were signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, which added new requirements for condominium, homeowners, and cooperative associations. While the below article is not comprehensive of all new legislation impacting housing associations, the following discusses Senate Bill 56 (new rules regarding foreclosures, liens, collection of assessments, invoices, and official records requests) and Senate Bill 72 (civil immunity for personal injury and wrongful death claims relating to COVID-19).  

 

Senate Bill 56

Senate Bill 56 implemented new rules for housing associations regarding notices of a foreclosure action, methods for sending out invoices for assessments, and when a housing association may require the payment of attorney fees relating to the collection of past due assessments. Now associations have additional procedures to follow for invoicing assessments and must follow strict procedures if requiring the payment of attorney fees relating to collecting on past due assessments. 

Section Two of Senate Bill 56 now requires 45 days’ written notice (instead of 30 days) before a foreclosure action is filed by a condominium association. Similarly, before a claim of lien is filed by a condominium or cooperative association, Section Three and Five now require 45 days’ notice (instead of 30 days). 

Section Three, Five, and Seven of Senate Bill 56 require a condominium, cooperative, or homeowner’s association sending out an invoice for assessments or a statement of the account to be delivered by first-class US mail or by e-mail to the owner’s address maintained in the association’s official records. Before changing the method of delivery, an association must provide written notice of at least 30 days in advance via the delivery methods described above to the owner. Furthermore, an owner must affirmatively acknowledge that the association changed its method of delivery for invoices for assessments or statement of the account before the association can change the method of delivery. Section One, Four, and Six of Senate Bill mandates that association must keep such acknowledgement as part of its official records and must provide the acknowledgement to an owner upon an official records request. 

Lastly, Section Three, Five, and Seven of Senate Bill 56 also mandate that an association may not require payment of attorney fees relating to past due assessments unless the association delivers a written notice of late assessments which specifies the amount owed, and provides the owner an opportunity to pay the past due amount owed. A notice of late assessments must be sent out by first-class US mail to the owner’s last known address in the association’s records – unlike the above notice requirements, notice of late assessments is not permitted via e-mail. Furthermore, if the last known address is not the unit/parcel address, notice must also be sent via first-class US mail to the unit/parcel address. 

 

Senate Bill 72

Although not specifically designated to protect associations, Senate Bill 72 grants civil immunity to business entities against plaintiffs bringing Covid-19 injury and wrongful death claims. A “COVID-19-related claim” means a civil liability claim against a person, including a natural person, a business entity, an educational institution, a governmental entity, or a religious institution, which arises from or is related to COVID-19, otherwise known as the novel coronavirus. The term includes any such claim for damages, injury, or death. The bill applies to “certain business entities,” in recognition of the public interest as a whole served by, “providing relief to this business… so that they may remain viable and continue to contribute to this state” – which presumably applies to housing associations. To avoid liability, a business owner must prove a good faith effort to substantially comply with authoritative or controlling government-issued health standards or guidance at the time the cause of action accrued. If the court determines that such good faith effort was made, the business is immune from civil liability.

 

About the Author: Tiffany Ashley Disney is an associate attorney who concentrates her practice in the areas of complex business and condominium litigation.

Condominium

What Can A Condo Association Do If A Resident Has COVID-19?

It has been nearly a year since the country went into lockdown due to the pandemic, and condominium associations continue to grapple with how to maintain the health and safety of their residents and employees as the threat of COVID-19 continues to affect our daily lives.  Due to the number of residents that may inhabit a condominium building, the exposure to others in common areas, and the frequency of elevator use, it has been imperative for condominium associations to work with their management companies to continuously implement procedures and protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Below is a checklist of what condominium associations should be discussing with their management companies in order to deal with residents testing positive for COVID-19.  

 

  • Encourage residents to self-report to management the date on which they tested positive and the common areas in which they frequented in the days prior.  It should be emphasized that the identity of the resident will be kept completely confidential.  
  • Management should communicate all appropriate steps the resident should take to ensure CDC compliance.  This includes, but is not limited to, limiting the frequency the resident leaves his or her unit, restricting the resident’s ability to access and/or use any of the amenities of the building, and arranging for all deliveries to be brought up directly to the resident’s unit and left outside the door in order to minimize any third-party contact with the resident for the quarantine period recommended by the CDC.
  • Management should adhere to the CDC’s current enhanced environmental cleaning and disinfecting guidelines to properly clean all common areas of the condominium property.  Said guidelines may be accessed and reviewed here.
  • Management should ensure that their responses to residents who report that they have tested positive for COVID-19 are compliant under the Fair Housing Act and related regulations.  Condominium Associations should consult their legal counsel regarding any Fair Housing Act compliance issues. 
  • Management should routinely check Emergency Orders issued by state and local governmental authorities to ensure they are complying with them. 
  • Any new rules implemented by a condominium association and its management to deal with residents testing positive for COVID–19 should be properly voted upon by the Board of Directors at a duly noticed board meeting, which may be held virtually.

About the Author: Katrina Sosa concentrates her practice in the areas of complex business law and litigation, condominium association law, and construction law. Since joining the firm, she has worked on both litigation and transactional matters. Katrina has worked on various phases of construction defect litigation ranging from the inception of the case to preparing for trial. On the transactional side, she has worked on a shareholder buyout for a local food company as well as real estate acquisitions.

Conducting Condominium Elections During COVID-19

It’s that time of year again—Election season!  As many condominium associations begin preparing to hold their annual membership meeting, many are wondering how to do so safely given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  

 

Fortunately, over the past few months we have learned there are several different technologies that will allow association members to participate in annual elections from the safety of their own homes.  Rather than holding the election in-person, associations should consider utilizing video conferencing providers, such as Zoom or GoToMeeting, to virtually host the election.  Notice of the election will be sent out to members in the same manner as before with one exception: the physical location of the meeting will be replaced (or supplemented) with instructions to access the meeting virtually, such as a link, meeting ID and/or telephone call in number.  

 

The pandemic also presents a great opportunity to implement electronic voting for your community (if you haven’t done so already).  For condominium associations, elections of directors must be by secret ballot, voting machine and electronic voting, depending upon the specific procedures established in your association’s governing documents.  The process of casting votes via written ballot will remain the same for a virtual meeting, as members will still be required to mail in or hand-deliver their ballots prior to the election time.  The only difference is that members cannot stay in person to watch the counting of the votes after dropping off their ballots.  For those associations who cast votes by voting machine, an alternative solution will need to be developed.  In such an instance, the Board should contact the association’s attorney prior to noticing the election to ensure the meeting notices comply with Florida law.  

 

Finally, although members will be asked to attend the election and annual meeting virtually, the association should have at least one board member, the manager and/or the election committee present on the property to count the ballots on camera so members can watch the election process virtually in a manner similar to how they would during an in-person election.  Additionally, should any confused members show up to this location, the individuals present will be able to provide the members with the virtual meeting login information if necessary and collect any last-minute ballots. 

 

The attorneys at Haber Law can help guide you through the unique process of holding your condominium election during a global pandemic. 

 

About the Author: Kristen E. Ferrer’s practice focuses on representation of community associations, real estate law, and commercial litigation. She is also experienced in dissolution of marriage and child custody matters and has represented clients in probate proceedings, contract disputes, asset and stock purchase transactions, and corporate formation.

A Message from Our Managing & Founding Shareholder, David B. Haber

At Haber Law, the health and safety of our employees, clients, professional colleagues, and strategic partners is our top priority. We also want to be responsible members of the business and legal community, including the greater South Florida community.

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Community Associations

Our Upcoming Webinars and Guidance for Community Associations

Join us for a webinar to learn more about how COVID-19 is impacting South Florida condo associations.

Read our article in the Daily Business Review on legal considerations for condo associations and biometrics.

Printed in May, an article by Jonathan Goldstein in the Florida Community Association Journal , “Community Association Safety Issues in the Time of COVID-19”.