Florida laws tied to HOAs, condo-hotels, insurance go into effect July 1

Late Thursday, the governor vetoed a controversial bill on the long contentious short-term rental issue

Gov. Ron DeSantis Signs Real Estate Bills Into Law
Gov. Ron DeSantis (Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal; Getty)

Half a dozen new Florida real estate-related laws will go into effect on Monday, following this year’s legislative session.  

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed bills into law that deal with long-controversial issues such as the governing structure at condo-hotels and the lack of oversight at residential communities governed by associations. Another new piece of legislation aims to help homebuilders obtain building permits. 

Late Thursday, DeSantis vetoed a bill tied to the controversial issue of short-term rentals booked through websites such as Airbnb and VRBO. Senate Bill 280 would have restricted the number of people who can stay in a short-term rental, and it would have trumped most county and municipal regulations imposed so far. The legislation aimed to curb party houses, limited occupancy to two people per bedroom, and two more people in a common area such as a living room. 

Here are the bills signed into law this year that take effect July 1: 

HB 1021, HB 1203

Lawmakers this year ramped up repercussions against condo and homeowners association board members and managers, including imposing criminal penalties for those who go rogue. 

The legislation is in direct response to the tidal wave of complaints against leaders by residents who live in communities governed by associations. Across South Florida, homeowners have alleged various types of mismanagement, including election meddling, excessive assessment increases, little to no property maintenance, and fraud, usually in the form of fund misappropriation. 

The biggest alleged fraud case is the Hammocks, a West Kendall community that’s one of the biggest HOAs in Florida. In 2022, a former board president, her husband and three other ex-board members were arrested over allegations they ran a massive scheme. The ex-board members allegedly hired bogus contractors who did no work on the 3,800-acre property and then misappropriated payments made to the fake contractors from association accounts, according to the arrest affidavit. 

The HOA legislation, HB 1203, and the condo association legislation, HB 1021, implemented the same criminal penalties, including for accepting kickbacks and hiding records. The stringent penalties came after lawmakers watered down a similar proposal in last year’s session. 

The HOA law specifically targets issues Hammocks residents and investigators of the ex-board’s dealings faced. Under the new law, HOAs have to provide subpoenaed records within five business days. At the Hammocks, former board members had refused to provide a second batch of subpoenaed documents, with their attorney arguing the request was illegally broad and burdensome.

Lawmakers, however, scrapped provisions in the HOA legislation that would have capped annual regular assessment increases to 10 percent and special assessment increases to 5 percent of the budgeted HOA expenses for a fiscal year. The clauses were taken out at the last minute during the session. 

The condo law also addresses a common complaint among residents: Over the years, many have said that their associations either sue them or send them cease-and-desist letters after they speak out against board members or management companies. Florida’s Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation provision bans retaliatory behavior, and the new condo law extended the anti-SLAPP provision to condo associations. 

The condo law also mandated higher education requirements for board members and criminalized election fraud. 

HB 1021 Part Two

A last-minute addition to the condo bill deals with the contentious and fragile balance of power at condo-hotels. 

The mixed-use complexes include hotel rooms, spas, pools, retail and restaurants, as well as common areas such as elevators, landscaping and roofs. Collectively, the amenities and common areas are owned and managed by investors, known as commercial lot owners, and condos are individually owned. Generally, the commercial lot owners have more power to maintain condo-hotel complexes and to levy assessments on unit owners for the upkeep. 

In lawsuits, condo owners have taken issue with commercial lot owners’ power that ultimately deprives residents of any ownership other than their units. While commercial lot owners’ greater power is spelled out in condo-hotels’ declarations, unit owners have argued in lawsuits that this governing structure violates the Florida Condominium Act. 

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The new law takes the power that commercial lot owners have under condo-hotel declarations and codifies it under the condo act. This change is beneficial to commercial lot owners that have argued that they need to have more control over condo-hotels in order to maintain the properties up to the standards of their hotel flags. High-end brands such as Carillon, St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton often brand condo-hotels. 

The last-minute addition came after a group of attorneys worked “to help promote the clarification of the law,” according to an April 8 letter to DeSantis from Mark Grant, one of the attorneys who worked on the changes. 

The law is expected to prompt more litigation, including new claims in pending lawsuits. The most prominent dispute has played out for the past eight years at the oceanfront Carillon Miami Wellness Resort in Miami Beach. 

Opponents to the controversial law are expected to push for amendments during an October session of the Florida Legislature.  

SB 812

A building permit bottleneck has long frustrated developers, especially in large areas such as Miami-Dade County. 

This law aims to speed up the building permitting process at residential subdivisions and planned communities in large counties and municipalities. Under the legislation, such localities have to create a program by Oct. 1 to expedite building permit approvals by providing developers with an application in which they can identify the number of building permits they need. Counties and municipalities face increased requirements to expedite building permits in 2027. 

The law applies to counties with at least 75,000 residents, and municipalities with at least 10,000 residents, as well as localities with more than 25 contiguous acres of land that’s either agricultural or designated for residential development.  

HB 1503 

Lawmakers passed changes to the state-backed Citizens Insurance Corp., which is considered the insurer of last resort. The law now allows surplus lines insurers to take out policies from Citizens for non-primary residences or non-homesteaded properties. Surplus insurers will typically provide coverage to riskier and more expensive properties. Under this law, Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation will have to approve the rates offered by these insurers. 

House Bill 1503 also allows Citizens policyholders who are required to have flood insurance to purchase only dwelling coverage for a flood loss. That will reduce the cost to consumers, because they were previously required to have dwelling and contents coverage. 

DeSantis signed the bill into law in May after the House and Senate voted unanimously to pass the legislation in March. 

Earlier this month, Citizens’ board of governors voted to raise rates for personal lines by an average of 14 percent statewide, Insurance Journal reported. The rate increase would go into effect next year. 

House Bill 433

The law bans local governments from adopting legislation that would set standards relating to heat exposure, including water consumption, cooling measures, employee monitoring and protection, rest breaks and posting notices or providing materials that would inform employees how to protect themselves from heat. House Bill 433 kills Miami-Dade County’s efforts to create heat protections. 

Parts of the country, including South Florida, have experienced record heat this summer. The state doesn’t have protections for outdoor workers, who include construction and agriculture workers. 

DeSantis signed this legislation into law in April.

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