Question: I understand our Legislature adopted significant amendments to the Condominium Act this year. Can you explain?
Answer: Last week I addressed some of the changes in Florida condominium law effective July 1, 2010. This week's column discusses additional changes.
Condominiums were let off the hook of fire sprinkler retrofitting by the 2010 Legislature. Section 718.112(2)(l) formerly allowed associations with buildings less than 75 feet in height to vote to forego retrofitting with a fire sprinkler system otherwise required by law, by a vote of 2/3 of all voting interests. Buildings greater than 75 feet in height were not allowed that option. The new statute reduces the vote from 2/3 of all voting interests to a majority of all voting interests and eliminates the exception for buildings greater than 75 feet in height. If there is no vote to forego retrofitting, the deadline for completion of installation is extended from 2014 to 2019.
Many associations have expressed concern about owners not paying assessments while their unit is in mortgage foreclosure. Many of those owners are leasing their units and collecting rent, but still not paying assessments. The mortgage holders are not foreclosing quickly, because they do not want to assume the obligation for assessments. This leaves man associations in a growing negative position.
The Legislature addressed these concerns by adopting 718.116(11). That Section allows and association to make written demand upon a tenant, with copy to the owner, that the tenant pay rent to the Association instead of the owner if the owner is delinquent. A tenant acting in good faith response to such written demand is immune from any claim from the unit owner. The Association may also sue for eviction as if it is the landlord if the tenant fails to pay the rent to the association.
718.116(1)(b) was also amended. Under the old statute, first mortgage holders were only liable for assessment arrearages equal to the lesser of six months of assessments immediately prior to date they took title or one percent of the original mortgage. The new statute increases that liability to lesser of 12 months of assessments or one percent of the original mortgage. The change may be helpful where the mortgage is large, but if one percent of the original mortgage is less than 6 months of assessments, the amendment is no change at all.
Associations are given an additional club to wield under amended 718.303(3)-(5). If a unit owner is delinquent for more than 90 days, the Association may now suspend the right of an owner or unit occupant to use common elements, common facilities or other Association property until the amount due the association is paid. Associations cannot suspend use of a limited common element intended exclusively for use by a unit or use of common elements that are needed for access to the unit, utility services to the unit, parking spaces or elevators. Associations may also suspend voting rights of a member who is more than 90 days delinquent.
The suspensions may only be imposed at a duly noticed board meeting if based solely on failure to pay assessments. That means associations need not follow the cumbersome procedures for other fines or suspensions of at least 14 days written notice to the owner and other occupants of an opportunity for hearing before a committee of other unit owners who are neither Board members nor persons residing in a Board member's household.
The bill includes other changes, which may be of significance to you. Since the changes became effective July 1, 2010, it is important that all association directors become quickly and thoroughly familiar with the new statutes. I recommend that you consult with an experienced attorney to confirm how these changes will impact you and any condominium with which you are involved.
By: William G. Morris, Esquire