This week continues our review of the 2021 legislative changes affecting Florida community associations. Today, we will cover Senate Bill 56, which creates new requirements for association collection notices, and House Bill 463, which relates to swimming pools. Both laws took effect July 1, 2021.
Senate Bill 56 amends the Florida Condominium Act (Chapter 718), the Florida Cooperative Act (Chapter 719), and the Florida Homeowners’ Association Act (Chapter 720). The changes to all three statutes are essentially identical.
Under the new law, before an association changes how assessments statements or invoices are sent to an association member, the association must notify the members of the change in the method of delivery and receive written confirmation from the member acknowledging the change. This law apparently arises from controversies over people who have claimed a readiness to pay assessments but did not do so due to some communication breakdown with the association as to where the bills should be sent.
The new law also requires that associations provide a 30-day notice of delinquency to a member before the account can turned over to an attorney for collection, or at least before the owner can be made responsible to pay legal fees. The form of what some call the new “free notice” is spelled out in the statute. The association can collect permissible late fees or interest due, along with the outstanding assessments, and these must be set forth in this notice.
Keep in mind that late fees must be authorized by the governing documents and cannot exceed $25 per installment, or 5 percent of the installment, whichever is greater. Interest is assessed at the rate set forth in the governing documents, and if the governing documents are silent, the statutory default interest rate is 18 percent.
The Condominium Act and the Cooperative Act have also been amended to provide that the association must give a delinquent member 45 days’ notice before a lien can be recorded against their unit. The Condominium Act has also been amended to provide that a condominium association must give a delinquent member 45 days’ notice before a foreclosure action can be filed. Previously, these notices had to be given 30 days in advance, and now the condominium and cooperative statutes are more in line with the homeowners’ association statute, which requires 45 days’ notice.
These changes will require associations to make adjustments to their collections policies, especially if the board has a written collection policy in place. The failure to do so could result in serious legal ramifications for the association. Associations should consult their legal counsel to create a plan that properly addresses these changes and ensures compliance with the new statutory notice requirements and timelines.
House Bill 463 amends Section 514.0115(3) of the Florida Statutes regarding swimming pools. Under the new law, swimming pools serving homeowners’ associations and other property owner associations that have no more than 32 units or parcels and are not operated as public lodging establishments are exempt from supervision under Chapter 514. However, jurisdiction is retained for water quality supervision, regulation of safety features for public swimming pools and spas, and certain administrative enforcement rights. This change brings homeowners’ associations into line with condominium and cooperative associations, where these exemptions already existed.
Next week, we will continue our review of the legislative changes effecting community associations, starting with a review of Senate Bill 1966 and changes that have been made to the budget adoption laws for condominium associations.
Joseph Adams is a Board Certified Specialist in Condominium and Planned Development Law, and an Office Managing Shareholder with Becker & Poliakoff. Please send your community association legal questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Past editions of the Q&A may be viewed at floridacondohoalawblog.com.