Becker & Poliakoff

“New Law Requires Dissemination of Documents” – News-Press

“New Law Requires Dissemination of Documents” – News-Press

Q: I recently bought a house and became a new member of a homeowners’ association. The association did not give me or my realtor a copy of the association’s rules and covenants before my purchase. Can you explain the new law on this that I was told recently passed? (J.D., via e‑mail)

A: Amendments to Section 720.303 of the Florida Homeowners’ Association Act, which take effect on July 1, 2024, require homeowners’ associations to provide physical or digital copy of the association’s rules and covenants to every member between July 1, 2024, and September 30, 2024. Starting July 1, 2024, a physical or digital copy of these rules and covenants must also be given to every new member. Additionally, whenever the association’s rules or covenants are amended, an updated copy must be provided to all members. The amendment does not address prospective purchasers.

If the association has a website, the new law allows the association to post a complete copy of the rules and covenants, or a direct link to them, on the homepage. However, this is only permitted if the website is accessible to members and the association sends notice of its intent to follow this approach. The notice must be sent by mail to the address listed in the association’s official records or by e-mail if members have consented to receive notices electronically and their e-mail addresses are on file.

Q: Can you explain the recent law changes we heard about regarding debit cards. Our HOA had a debit card we used very little, but are told that having it is now illegal. Is that correct? (P.M., via e-mail)

A: Yes. On May 31, 2024, Governor DeSantis signed a bill into law amending Section 720.303 of the Florida Homeowners’ Association Act to prohibit homeowners’ association, including their officers, directors, employees, and agents, from using a debit card issued in the association’s name or billed directly to the association for paying any association expenses. This prohibition is like the 2017 amendments to Section 718.111 of the Florida Condominium Act, which imposed similar restrictions on condominium associations and their representatives.

The new amendment also clarifies that using a debit card issued in the homeowners’ association’s name or billed directly to the association for any expense that is not a “lawful association obligation” is considered theft under Section 812.014, Florida Statutes. A “lawful association obligation” is defined in the amendment as an expense that has been properly preapproved by the board and is documented in the meeting minutes or the written budget.

Q: Recently, several owners of our condominium association made modifications to their townhouses, seemingly without association approval. For decades, garage doors have matched the house color, but these owners painted them a different color, along with the front doors, which traditionally matched the house color as well. What can owners do to address this?  (R.H., via e‑mail)

A: Based on well-established case decisions spanning over 50 years, and assuming the garage doors are part of the common elements as described in your declaration of condominium, the color change is a “material alteration” of the common elements. Material alterations are those that “palpably or perceptively varies or changes the form, shape, elements, or specifications of a building from its original design or plan, or existing condition, in such a manner as to appreciably affect or influence its functions, use, or appearance.”

Unless otherwise provided in your declaration of condominium, 75% of all voting interests (there is usually one voting interest per unit) must approve such a change in advance. Most declarations of condominium do “otherwise provide” and contain some guidance on material alterations.

Most material alteration clauses distinguish between changes made by the association and those made by unit owners. The proper body to approve such changes (the board or the unit owners) may be different depending on who is making the change. If your community has a “master association,” it may also have a say in the matter.

I would suggest you express your concerns to your board of directors and ask them to obtain a legal opinion in the matter if they have not already done so.

Joe Adams is an attorney with Becker & Poliakoff, P.A., Fort Myers. Send questions to Joe Adams by e-mail to jadams@beckerlawyers.com. Past editions may be viewed at floridacondohoalawblog.com.