Session Ends and Long Awaited ESA Bill Passes!

Session Ends and Long Awaited ESA Bill Passes!

Before we jump into the outcome of Florida’s 2020 Legislative Session, it is very important to note that the CDC has stated that gatherings of 50 or more people should be postponed for the next eight weeks. Bars, clubs, theaters and other places of public accommodation throughout the Sunshine State are being closed or their capacity and hours are being dramatically reduced. While these drastic government measures should inform your board’s decision to cancel or postpone meetings in your community, we would urge you to speak with association counsel prior to canceling or postponing your meetings.

Florida’s 2020 Regular Session ended last Friday, March 13, however, our lawmakers did not reach an agreement on the proposed $92 billion state budget. The budget is the only piece of legislation which legislators are required to pass each year no later than June 30. This means that Florida’s legislators will have to reconvene to pass the budget. Given the heightened concerns regarding COVID-19, some legislators have suggested the use of electronic voting to pass the budget.

We will be addressing the major bills impacting our CALL members in a series of separate alerts since there is a lot to discuss on each bill. In the first of the series, we are delighted to announce that SB 1084, the bill which takes the first step to rein in emotional support animal abuse, passed! We thank our HonestESA members who helped make this happen. The effective date of the bill is July 1, 2020.

This new law provides for the following:

  • Amends Section 817.265 of the Florida Statutes. A person who falsifies information or written documentation or who knowingly provides fraudulent information or written documentation to obtain an emotional support animal (ESA) or otherwise knowingly and willfully misrepresents himself or herself as having a disability or a disability related need for an ESA commits a misdemeanor of the second degree as punishable under Chapter 775 of the Florida Statutes. In addition, a person convicted under this new law must also perform thirty (30) hours of community service for an organization that serves persons with disabilities or such other organization that the court determines is appropriate.
  • Amends Section 456.072 of the Florida Statues. A health professional who provides information, including written documentation, indicating that a person has a disability or which documentation supports a person’s need for an ESA without personal knowledge of the person’s disability is subject to disciplinary action.
  • Amends Section 760.27 of the Florida Statutes.
  • Defines an ESA as “an animal that does not require training to do work, perform tasks, provide assistance, or provide therapeutic emotional support by virtue of its presence which alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.”
  • Allows associations to deny a reasonable accommodation request for an ESA if the animal being requested poses a “direct threat to the safety or health of others or poses a direct threat of physical damage to the property of others which threat cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation.”
  • Allows associations to request supporting information for the ESA if a person’s disability is not readily apparent.
  • Clarifies that information which may support an ESA request may include: a determination of disability from any federal, state, or local government agency; receipt of disability benefits or services form any federal, state, or local government agency; proof of eligibility for housing assistance or a housing voucher received because of a disability; information from a health care practitioner (456.001, F.S.), a tele-health provider (456.47, F.S.) or any similarly licensed or certified practitioner or provider in good standing with his or her profession’s regulatory body in another state BUT only if such out-of-state practitioner has provided in-person care or services to the person on at least one occasion.
  • The practitioner or provider of the supporting information must have personal knowledge of the person’s disability and must be acting within the scope of his or her practice.
  • If a person requests more than one ESA, he or she must provide supporting information for each animal.
  • The association may require proof that each ESA is properly licensed and vaccinated.
  • The association may not require persons requesting an ESA to use a specific form and may not deny a request solely because a person did not follow the association’s routine method for providing supporting information.
  • An ESA registration of any kind including an ID card, patch, vest, certificate, etc. is not by itself sufficient information to reliably establish that a person has a disability or a disability-related need for an ESA.
  • Persons with ESAs are liable for any damage done to the premises or to another person by the ESA.

Stay tuned for the next in our series of alerts on 2020 community association legislation and further updates about COVID-19 from your CALL Team.