2020 Amendments to the Florida Statutes Affecting Community Associations
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Each year the Florida Legislature proposes amendments to various sections of the Florida Statutes, and some of those proposed amendments involve community association governance. Florida Governor DeSantis recently signed several proposed bills into law that took effect on July 1, 2020, and some of which address Florida’s community associations options for regulating issues involving emotional support animals, fireworks and law enforcement vehicles. Community associations throughout Florida must be aware of these new legislative changes for 2020 and ensure its operations moving forward are in compliance with any new Florida laws.
SB 1084: Emotional Support Animals
Governor DeSantis signed into law Senate Bill 1084, an act relating to emotional support animals, which took effect July 1, 2020. This bill amended Florida’s Fair Housing Act by creating section 760.27, Florida Statutes. This new legislation prohibits discrimination in housing provided to persons with a disability or disability-related need for an emotional support animal. An emotional support animal is defined 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. It is important to note that the definition of emotional support animal is broad and can include any type of animal, not just cats and dogs.
When a housing provider is considering a request for an emotional support animal, if the individual’s disability or need for an emotional support animal is not readily apparent, the housing provider may request information that reasonably supports that the individual has a disability or need for such animal. This may include a determination of disability from a government agency, or information from a health care practitioner. However, a housing provider is not authorized to request information that discloses the diagnosis or severity of a person’s disability or any medical records relating to the disability.
A housing provider may develop a routine process for reasonable accommodation requests, however, the housing provider is prohibited from denying a request based on an individual’s failure to use a specific form or process. If a person requests more than one emotional support animal, the housing provider may request information regarding the specific need for each animal, and may require proof of licensing and vaccination requirements for each animal. A housing provider is authorized to deny a request for an emotional support animal if such animal poses a direct threat to the safety, health, or property of others.
When an individual is approved by a housing provider to have an emotional support animal, the individual must be allowed to keep such animal in his or her dwelling as a reasonable accommodation in housing, without paying extra compensation. The individual is liable for any damage done to the premises or another person on the premises by his or her emotional support animal.
SB 140: Fireworks
Governor DeSantis signed into law Senate Bill 140, an act relating to fireworks. This bill created section 791.08, Florida Statutes. This new legislation allows fireworks to be used during designated holidays, which includes: New Year’s Day, January 1; Independence Day, July 4; and New Year’s Eve, December 31.
This new legislation does not supersede any prohibition against the use of fireworks contained within a legally executed and properly recorded declaration of covenants or covenant running with the land of any homeowners or condominium associations. However, community associations may not promulgate rules that attempt to abrogate a homeowner’s right to use fireworks during the three defined designated holidays.
SB 476: Law Enforcement Vehicles
Governor DeSantis signed into law Senate Bill 476, an act relating to law enforcement vehicles. This bill created section 718.129, 719.131 and 720.318, Florida Statutes. This new legislation provides that condominium, cooperative, and homeowners’ associations may not prohibit a law enforcement officer, who is a unit owner, or is a tenant, guest, or invitee of a unit owner, from parking his or her assigned law enforcement vehicle in an area where the unit owner, or the tenant, guest, or invitee of the unit owner, otherwise has a right to park.
For community associations with covenants, rules and regulations relating to residents keeping emotional support animals, using fireworks, and parking law enforcement vehicles, it is recommended that the boards understand these new legislative amendments and ensure their associations are not enforcing the documents in a way that violates these new laws. Consulting with an experienced association attorney to revise or create specific rules and regulations on these issues is recommended.