Q: In a recent column you said a new law passed about “emotional support animals,” which is supposed to cut down on bogus requests. When does this law take effect and what are the details? M.H.
A: Senate Bill 1084 did become law. It was signed by Governor DeSantis on June 23, 2020 and became effective on July 1, 2020.
The new law amended several provisions within Florida Statutes, including Sections 760.27 and 817.265. One of the most important amendments is found at Section 760.27(2)(b)(4), Florida Statutes, which addresses telehealth providers and services. Out-of-state telehealth providers are permitted to write letters for assistance animals, but only if the telehealth practitioner has provided “in-person care or services” to the requesting party on at least one occasion and has “personal knowledge” of the requesting party’s disability. Section 456.072(1)(pp), Florida Statues, was also added and imposes disciplinary actions for health professionals, including counselors and psychologists, when they provide information indicating that a person has a disability, or supporting a person’s need for an emotional support animal, without personal knowledge of the person’s disability or disability-related need for the specific emotional support animal. Section 817.265, Florida Statutes, makes it a second-degree misdemeanor to submit a fraudulent emotional support animal request, punishable by imprisonment for up to 60 days, fines and community service.
For an expanded summary of the details of this bill please see my May 17, 2020 column. My previous columns can be accessed at www.beckerlawyers.com.
Q: I serve on a seven-member board of directors for a large condominium community all serving one-year terms. One of our board members recently resigned leaving us with six members. Our bylaws state that the board is to be made up of seven members. Our annual meeting and election are coming up in November. Do we have to appoint a replacement director now or can we simply continue with six directors until the annual meeting where all seven director spots will be up for election? T.T.
A: Most condominium documents give the remaining directors the authority to appoint a replacement director to fill the remaining term of the resigning director, as does the statute. However, many condominium documents also don’t mandate that vacant director positions be filled, while some do.
A similar issue was addressed in an arbitration case from 2011. The arbitrator concluded that normally, there is no legal requirement that a board appoint a new director to fill a vacant seat, with the exception of the situation where the number of vacancies prevents an association from obtaining a quorum.
Since your board will still have a quorum with only six directors, and since your annual meeting is only a few months away, there is a reasonable argument to assert that your board is not legally obligated to immediately fill the vacant director (assuming your condominium documents don’t contain language affirmatively requiring the board to fill vacant positions).
From a practical standpoint having an even number of directors can present problems since it could result in a deadlock. As a result, you may want to try to find a qualified replacement director this summer to avoid this outcome. It might also be an opportunity for someone who is thinking about running for a seat on the board to get a taste of what is involved.