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DeSantis Signs Condo Board, Association Bill

A new law requires condo board education and gives the state more investigative powers to tamp down on abuses of power and other provisions.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed a bill intended to give more rights to condo owners, in the latest attempt to reform laws governing Florida’s often troubled community associations.

The new law, dubbed “Condo 3.0,” imposes education requirements on board members, requires more condo communities to set up web pages for members, makes it harder for boards to stifle dissent, and gives the state more power to investigate abuses.

Florida condo owners have been frequently frustrated in attempts to get the state to investigate complaints of corruption, unfair governance and other abuses because the law previously prevented the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation from looking into their complaints.

“This is a game-changer,” said Rep. Vicki Lopez, a Miami Republican who sponsored the bill, HB 1021. “They will really be able to help everybody, whether they’re property managers, condo owners or condo board members, they’ll be able to offer the assistance that’s so needed, because so often people made complaints and got back a responses that said ‘not within our jurisdiction,’ and now they’ll have plenty of jurisdiction and plenty of money.”

Here are highlights of the new law:

— New board members must undergo four hours of education on how to run a condo association, a measure that would make them less vulnerable to manipulation by outside vendors, attorneys or their own residents.

— Condos with 25 units or more must set up web pages that include documents such as bylaws, budgets and lists of contracts with vendors. The requirement previously applied only to condos with at least 150 units. The law requires boards to meet four times a year, up from the current two.

— Boards are barred from retaliating against dissenters through the filing of defamation lawsuits. The use of defamation suits to silence dissent was highlighted in a South Florida Sun Sentinel series last year on condo and HOA abuses.

— The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation will get more authority to investigate wrongdoing by condo boards and will receive funding to hire additional staff.

About half of Floridians live under the authority of community associations, as owners or tenants in condo buildings and in neighborhoods governed by homeowners’ associations.

The legislation, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jennifer Bradley, one of a series of reforms attempted in the past few years, comes at a difficult time for Florida’s community associations. Insurance costs are soaring, leading to crushing increases in monthly fees on homeowners.

High-rise condos are absorbing the costs of higher maintenance requirements imposed after the 2021 collapse of the Champlain Towers condo building in Surfside. There have been a series of highly publicized cases of abuses by boards, including the arrests of board members of the Hammocks community in Miami-Dade County for what prosecutors say was a vast embezzlement scheme.

The legislation follows another law recently signed by the governor aimed at preventing abuses by homeowners’ associations, which differ from condo associations in that they govern communities of single-family homes. That bill, HB 1203, bars HOAs from imposing excessive fines, which can lead to late fees, liens, litigations and ultimately the loss of a home.

That law bans fines for leaving trash cans out too long or leaving holiday decoration up past the association’s time limit, among many other restrictions on the right of associations to impose fines on residents.

© 2024 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.