Florida’s Homeowners’ Association Act: Recent Changes Effective October 1, 2023
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In Florida, homeowners’ associations (“HOA”) are governed by Florida Statute Chapter 720. That chapter is known as the “Homeowner’s Association Act” (the “Act”). The Act governs issues ranging from member assessments to arbitration to conducting meetings. The Act is constantly evolving, and HOA board members, HOA property owners, and HOA property managers should review the Act periodically.
The Florida legislature made some changes to the Act, with those changes taking effect on October 1, 2023 see BILL: CS/CS/SB 1114. This blog post highlights some of those changes.
HOA Meeting Notices – Agenda Items
The Act provides the time limits for noticing Board meetings and meetings of its members. The revisions to the Act now require that HOA meeting notices “specifically identify agenda items” for HOA board meetings.
While the Act does not provide insight into what “specifically identify” means, the HOA agenda for its meetings should articulate each and every topic the Board intends to cover at that meeting.
Deposits from HOA Members
The revisions to the Act now provide for the handling of HOA member deposits as follows:
- If the HOA collects a deposit from a member, for any reason, the HOA must maintain those funds separately from any other HOA funds and ensure those funds are not comingled.
- Upon completion of the event that required the member deposit, the HOA must return those funds within 30 days from completion of that event.
- HOA members have the right to request an accounting statement from the HOA of the funds deposited, and the HOA must provide that accounting within seven (7) days of receipt of that request.
Rules and Requirements for HOA Board Members
Board members of an HOA have a fiduciary duty to members of the HOA. The Act articulates certain prohibited HOA board member conduct. The revisions to that Act now provide that an HOA must immediately remove any director or officer that is charged with:
- forgery of a ballot envelope/voting certificate used in the HOA election;
- theft/embezzlement of funds from an HOA;
- destruction of or refusal to allow inspection or copying of official records of an HOA, in furtherance of a crime; or
- obstruction of justice.
The revisions to the Act further provide that:
- HOA officers, directors, or managers who solicit, offer to accept, or accept any sort of bribe are subject to monetary damages.
- HOA directors and officers, appointed by developers, must disclose to the HOA their relationship with the developer every calendar year when serving as an officer or director.
- Developer appointed HOA directors or officers must disclose such conflict of interest at least 14 days before voting on an issue/entering into a contract.
The revisions to the Act also provide for presumptive conflict of interest involving HOA board member, when:
- a director or officer, or a relative, enters into a contract for goods or service with the association; or
- a director or officer, or a relative, holds an interest in a business that conducts business with the HOA or proposes to enter into a contract with the HOA.
Fines and Suspensions
The Act provides that an HOA may levy fines against its members and articulates the amounts of those fines. The revisions to the Act limit an HOA’s fining ability as follows:
- No fines or suspensions due to a violation of the declaration, bylaws, or rules, unless 14 days’ notice is given to the homeowner at the designated email/mailing address in the HOA’s official records. The notice regarding the violation must include:
- a description of the violation;
- specific action required to cure the violation; and
- the date and location of any hearing, if applicable.
- An HOA committee must send notice to the owner of the fine after the hearing to the designated email/mailing address of the official records detailing any applicable fines the committee approved or rejected, and how the violation can be cured.
- If that committee finds a violation occurred, the proposed fine or suspension must be approved by the committee by majority vote.
- Written notice to the parcel owner must be sent by the board for any suspension due to delinquent payments.
Fraudulent Voting Activities
The revisions to the Act outline actions that constitute fraudulent voting activity. Each of the following actions is a first-degree misdemeanor:
- Willfully and falsely swearing to or affirming an oath or affirmation, or willfully procuring another person to falsely swear to or affirm an oath or affirmation, in connection with or arising out of voting activities.
- Perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate, or aiding in the perpetration of, fraud in connection with a vote cast, to be cast, or attempted to be cast.
- Preventing a member from voting or preventing a member from voting as he or she intended by fraudulently changing or attempting to change a ballot, ballot envelope, vote, or voting certificate of the member.
- Menacing, threatening, or using bribery or any other corruption to attempt, directly or indirectly, to influence, deceive, or deter a member when the member is voting.
- Giving or promising, directly or indirectly, anything of value to another member with the intent to buy the vote of that member or another member or to corruptly influence that member or another member in casting his or her vote.
- Using or threatening to use, directly or indirectly, force, violence, or intimidation or any tactic of coercion or intimidation to induce or compel a member to vote or refrain from voting in an election or on a particular ballot measure.
The above-referenced changes to the Act take effect on October 1, 2023. Given the complex nature of the Act and that it is ever changing, HOA board members, HOA property managers and homeowners living in an HOA should be knowledgeable about these changes and consult counsel with any questions.