Homeownership Triumphs During 2022 Legislative Session
Support of Florida homeownership programs was on full display during the 2022 Legislative Session, thanks largely to the impassioned advocacy efforts of Realtors® throughout the state. As a result, homeownership and other related housing programs will receive $362 million this coming fiscal year, including $100 million for a new revolving loan program aimed at hometown heroes heavily advocated by Florida Realtors®.
Hometown heroes will also be able to save hundreds of dollars each year by taking advantage of an additional homestead tax exemption if voters approve the measure during the 2022 general election.
These homeownership-related wins are in addition to numerous other laws passed by lawmakers that impact Realtors and their businesses during the annual 60-day session. Bills passed head to the governor for final approval.
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Legislative Highlights (Grouped by Category)
Housing and taxation
- New homeownership opportunities for hometown heroes: Included in the 2022-2023 fiscal year budget (House Bill 5001) is $100 million for the Hometown Hero Housing Program. This is a new revolving loan program for qualified firefighters, law enforcement officers, teachers, nurses and other hometown hero professions. The program reduces the upfront costs for these homebuyers by providing zero-interest loans to help with down payment and closing costs. The loan is repaid once the home is sold, rented or refinanced, creating a continuous cycle of homeownership for some of Florida’s most essential workers. Effective: July 1, 2022.
- Hometown hero property tax relief: House Joint Resolution 1 will make homeownership more affordable for hometown heroes who already own a home. If passed by voters in November, the amendment will grant an additional homestead property tax exemption on $50,000 of the assessed value of homestead property owned by specified critical public service workforce such as teachers, law enforcement and firefighters. Additionally, the implementing bill attached to the amendment (House Bill 1563) provides funding to offset any negative impacts to fiscally constrained counties. Effective: Upon approval by Florida voters during the 2022 general election.
- $262 million for affordable housing programs: Lawmakers allocated $262 million in the 2022-2023 fiscal year budget (House Bill 5001) to the State and Local Government Housing Trust Funds, which fund the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) and State Apartment Incentive Loan programs (SAIL). These long-standing affordable housing programs provide homeownership and rental assistance to low-income Floridians. Effective: July 1, 2022.
- Home hardening and other tax breaks for Floridians: House Bill 7071 includes the “home hardening” initiative, which was a 2022 Florida Realtors® legislative priority. It provides sales tax relief to homeowners to harden their homes from storms. The bill also includes an abatement of all property taxes for owners of Surfside condominiums, pro-rated refunds of property taxes on residential properties rendered uninhabitable by a catastrophic event for at least 30 days, a sales tax reduction on new mobile homes and several sales tax holidays. Effective: July 1, 2022.
- Increased zoning flexibility for affordable housing: Senate Bill 962 allows local governments to green light mixed-use projects in commercial and industrial zones, as long as the development is not using any money from the State Apartment Incentive Loan Program and 10% of the building’s units are reserved for affordable housing. Effective: Upon becoming law.
- Increased apartment safety measures: Senate Bill 898 requires employees of transient and non-transient apartments to go through a background check by a consumer reporting agency as a condition of employment, and it specifies certain offenses that would disqualify someone from employment. Additionally, apartments must maintain a key-log subject to DBPR inspection, and the bill changes “reasonable notice” to enter an apartment for repairs from 12 hours to 24 hours. This portion of the bill takes effect on January 1, 2023. Additionally, this bill prohibits a lodging establishment from charging rent by the hour, but it allows charging an hourly rate for late checkout fees. This portion of the bill takes effect on July 1, 2022. This bill aims to help prevent criminal acts similar to the one that resulted in the murder of 19-year-old Miya Marcano in 2021. Effective July 1. 2022.
Private property rights
- Protecting private property rights: Senate Bill 518 helps protect the rights of property owners who wish to prune, trim and remove trees that present a danger to the property. Specifically, it strengthens a law passed in 2019 that prohibits local governments from requiring permits for the removal of “dangerous” trees on residential property. Effective: July 1, 2022.
- New protections from harmful local ordinances: Senate Bill 620 allows private, for-profit business owners to recover business damages related to local government ordinances. Private businesses will be able to recover damages from a local government if it creates or changes an ordinance that causes a reduction of at least 15% of the business’s profit. This new law has the potential to help vacation rental property managers recover damages relating to local ordinances that negatively impact their business. Effective: Upon becoming law.
Land use & environment
- Over $1.6 billion for the Everglades and water quality: The Florida Legislature continues to allocate significant funding for projects that improve Florida’s water quality. The 2022-2023 fiscal year budget (House Bill 5001) includes money for Everglades Restoration ($425 million), Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration ($450 million), springs restoration ($75 million), beaches ($50 million), Biscayne Bay ($20 million), the Wastewater Grant Program ($125 million) and the Resilient Florida Grant Program ($470 million). This includes $100 million for Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration and $200 million for the Resilient Grant Program funded through the Federal Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds. Effective: July 1, 2022.
- New inspection options for septic systems: Senate Bill 856 allows private inspections as an option for onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems, also known as septic systems. Cities and counties have dealt with a backlog of septic inspections for years, partially because of the number of inspectors and workload. This bill allows an authorized contractor to hire a private provider to inspect the system in addition to the inspections performed by public inspectors. Effective: July 1, 2022.
- Coordination of flooding and sea-level rise resilience efforts: House Bill 7053 establishes the Statewide Office of Resilience within the Governor’s Office, with the governor appointing the Chief Resiliency Officer. It also sets a minimum of $100 million in funding to be identified annually in a comprehensive and ranked list of resilience projects. Effective: July 1, 2022.
- New approach to water quality solutions: House Bill 965 creates a public/private partnership-oriented approach to improving water quality in the state by authorizing the creation of water quality enhancement areas, which are natural systems constructed, operated, managed and maintained to provide offsite regional treatment through enhancement credits. Effective: July 1, 2022.
- Reducing harmful water discharges: Senate Bill 2508 acknowledges the need to reduce harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee by codifying the rules the South Florida Water Management District uses for water management, and fully funding Everglades projects associated with the district. Effective: July 1, 2022.
- Cleanup of harmful substances: House Bill 1475 requires the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to adopt by rule statewide cleanup target levels for Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) in soil and groundwater. PFAS is a group of thousands of man-made chemical compounds developed for products like non-stick pans and firefighting foams that do not break down in the environment and are not water soluble. It is currently unknown what the exposure to PFAS has on human health, and research is being done to fully understand the health ramifications of exposure. Effective: upon becoming law.
- Alternatives to landfills: House Bill 1419 creates a Municipal Solid Waste-to-Energy program within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to provide assistance to such facilities in the form of adjusted subsidy or grants for constructing, upgrading or expanding facilities. The program was created to address the amount of municipal solid waste created in Florida, particularly in highly populated areas that do not have the space or ability to permit new landfills. Effective: July 1, 2022.
- Grease waste removal and disposal: Senate Bill 1110 creates regulations for the removal and disposal of grease waste. The regulations relate to the hauling and transport of grease waste, compliance inspections and penalties. It does not preempt local governments from imposing additional regulations. The purpose of this bill is to provide oversight of an activity that, without oversight, can lead to the contamination of water systems. Effective: July 1, 2022.
Other issues of interest
- Preventing unlicensed real estate activity: The Legislature allocated up to $500,000 to combat unlicensed real estate activity. Effective: July 1, 2022.
- Changes to net metering: House Bill 741 requires the Public Service Commission to propose a redesigned net metering rate structure to ensure that net metering customers pay the full cost of electric service. Net metering allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to sell the electricity they aren’t using back into the grid. This legislation ends the billing mechanism in Florida while grandfathering in current solar consumers for 20 years and providing a glide path for others until it fully drops to the market rate in 2029. Effective: July 1, 2022.
- Law enforcement officer, benefits, recruitment and training: House Bill 3 includes several measures designed to recruit and retain law enforcement officers, such as revising salary minimums for county sheriffs, providing for adoption benefits for law enforcement officers and creating the Florida Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Payment Program. Effective: July 1, 2022.
- Florida tourism marketing: Senate Bill 434 extends the repeal date of the Florida Tourism Marketing Corporation, better known as VISIT Florida, to October 1, 2028. VISIT Florida is a public-private partnership created by the Florida Legislature in 1996 as the state’s official tourism marketing corporation. Effective: Upon becoming law.
- Evidentiary standards for actions arising during an emergency: Senate Bill 542 creates a new law that identifies certain actions taken by a business during a declared public health emergency that may not be used as evidence against the business in civil court to establish the existence of an employer-employee relationship. Effective: July 1, 2022.
Bills that did not pass
While numerous real estate-related bills and budget items passed this year, some did not cross the finish line.
- Private property rights/short-term rentals: Senate Bill 512 and House Bill 325 would have required advertising platforms to collect and remit taxes for certain transactions, expand registration requirements and require advertisements to attest to certain information, among other things.
- Insurance reform: Senate Bill 1728 contained provisions that would have addressed roof-related insurance scams that drive up property insurance costs in Florida. It also would have authorized surplus line insurers to participate in Citizens’ depopulation, and provided guidelines if Citizens assumes a policy from an unsound insurer.
- Milestone inspections for condominiums: House Bill 7069 would have required milestone building inspections for condominium buildings to help prevent tragedies such as the Champlain Tower South collapse in Surfside, Florida in 2021.
- Business Rent Tax elimination: Senate Bill 1558 and House Bill 6093 would have repealed the state law that currently levies a state sales tax on commercial leases.
- DBPR licensing changes: House Bill 667 and Senate Bill 714 would have made a variety of changes to certain professional licensing requirements.
- Fees in lieu of security deposits: House Bill 537 and Senate Bill 884 would have provided for a landlord to offer a tenant the option to pay a fee in lieu of a security deposit, required the landlord to provide certain written notice to the tenant, and required a written agreement signed by the landlord, or the landlord’s agent, and the tenant.
- Changes to PACE: House Bill 101 and Senate Bill 228 would have amended the Property Assessed Clean Energy program by enhancing protections for consumers entering into PACE contracts and changing the name from PACE to REEF.