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.