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Florida Reduces Reach of Homeowners’ Associations

Written by on Friday, June 7, 2024

Some HOA abuses will now be criminal under state law.


By Ramon Lopez

Original Air Date: June 7, 2024

Host: Homeowners associations not only say what people can and cannot do in their homes, but they also play a key role in maintaining streets, walls, roofs, and other shared assets. Now, the governor signed a law that tries to rein in some common homeowners association abuses. Ramon Lopez reports.

Ramon Lopez: Late last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 1203, legislation that imposes criminal sanctions on Home Owners Associations, or HOAs, statewide. It also limits HOA fines and requires more transparency from such organizations. The legislation, effective July 1st, makes it a crime for HOA members and directors to receive kickbacks and conceal records at HOAs.

Accepting or seeking a kickback is now a third-degree felony and subject to monetary damages. Blocking access to official records also holds criminal penalties. It is a second-degree misdemeanor if a board member or manager fails to turn over or maintain requested records. It is a first-degree misdemeanor to intentionally deface and destroy accounting records. Aiding election fraud becomes a first-degree misdemeanor.

The bill aims to boost repercussions against community board members and managers who go rogue. It is part of a series of reforms stemming from the 2022 arrest of Hammocks HOA board members. The Hammocks community, in the Miami-Dade area, is home to about 18,000 residents. Criminal investigators allege a massive scheme to divert millions of dollars from association coffers. The five charged have pleaded not guilty.

State Representative Tiffany Esposito

HB 1203 was unanimously approved by the full House and Senate back in March. The bill was introduced by State Representatives Tiffany Esposito, a Republican of Fort Myers, Adam Anderson and Juan Porras. Porras said HOAs have no accountability, are harassing homeowners and selectively enforcing bylaws and covenants. Esposito said HB 1203 provides some of the strongest reforms in state history. She said “these associations are now under the microscope. Homeowners are now empowered and there’s increased transparency and accountability across homeowners associations in Florida.”

HB 1203, which is designed to rein in overbearing HOAs, also spells out what those organizations will no longer be able to do. For example, HOAs are barred from imposing restrictions on the interior of structures not visible from the front of the home or adjacent property. And, they can’t fine homeowners for leaving garbage cans out within 24 hours of the designated collection time, or leaving holiday decorations up longer than specified in the community rulebook. Backyard vegetable gardens and clotheslines are now OK, if neighbors can’t see them. And finally, HOAs can no longer restrict parking personal vehicles in the homeowner’s driveway. The new law also provides that HOA managers and directors satisfy certain educational requirements.

HB 1203 appears to beef up HB 919, known as the “Homeowners’ Association Bill of Rights,” which went into effect last October. HB 919 says HOA personnel who knowingly accept kickbacks or other items could face monetary damages and removal from office if charged or indicted for certain crimes, such as forgery, theft, or obstruction of justice. Moreover, any officer or director facing criminal charges is barred from being appointed or elected to any position in any association and cannot access official records, except under a court order. So says HB 919.

Meanwhile, there’s new condominium legislation this year: House Bill 1021. It is geared to enhance condo safety, by beefing up structural inspections. This, after Champlain Towers South collapsed, killing 98 Surfside residents in 2021. The Florida House and Senate voted unanimously to approve HB 1021. If approved by DeSantis (or allowed to become law without his signature), HB 1021 will take effect on the first of July.

This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.

 

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