7 New Florida Laws go Into Effect July 1

New Florida Laws

Florida Realtors: New Florida Laws effective July 1

  1. Cap on estoppel certificate fees – Sellers of properties who live in an HOA, condo association or co-op will have a limit on the amount they’ll pay for an estoppel certificate, a document that informs a buyer if the seller is current with their dues and assessments. SB 398 (Sen. Passidomo, R-Naples) caps estoppel certificate fees at $250 for unit owners who are current in their assessments. Associations may charge an additional $100 for expedited estoppel certificates (delivered within three business days) and another $150 to owners who are delinquent in their assessments. The bill sets the price of estoppel certificates for multiple units owned by the same person and establishes a uniform, statewide format that ensures buyers and closing agents receive the appropriate information needed to close the real estate transaction. This bill also requires certificates to be valid for 30 days if delivered electronically or 35 days if delivered by mail.
  2. Florida’s natural resources – More than $500 million is earmarked for Everglades restoration, beach renourishment and springs restoration. During the session, SB 10 (Sen. Bradley, R-Orange Park) served as the primary piece of policy legislation for Everglades restoration and establishes how the funding will be used for these projects. A key provision of SB 10 is the construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee that is designed to curb nutrient and salinity levels that are harmful to Florida’s valuable natural resources.
  3. Condominium termination law – Legislation passed in 2015 to protect condo owners from being forced to sell – possibly at a loss – has several loopholes that real estate investors and bulk buyers exploited. SB 1520 (Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater) fine-tunes the rules and modifies the process by reducing the percentage of owners required to reject the termination – from 10 percent to 5 percent.
  4. Condominium oversight – A South Florida news report of fraud in condo board elections, misappropriation of funds and rigged bids resulted in a Miami-Dade grand jury recommending changes to Florida’s Condominium Act. HB 1237 (Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami) provides several new condo oversight rules: (1) a condo association with more than 150 units must publish its financial reports and other documents (bylaws, articles of incorporation, condo rules) on a password-protected web page; (2) if an owner is denied documents and fraud is proven, persons responsible for fraudulent activity could face felony charges; (3) the term of a condo board director is limited to eight years, with some exceptions.
  5. Private flood insurance – As Realtors petition Congress to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), Florida lawmakers continue to work to attract private flood insurance capital to Florida. HB 813 (Rep. Larry Lee Jr., D-Fort Pierce) accomplishes two primary goals: (1) Rating flexibility for flood insurers is extended from 2019 until 2025 before they must follow guidelines similar to other lines of coverage – a way to encourage private insurers to enter the Florida market; (2) insurance agents can place flood policies with surplus lines insurers for two more years – until 2019 – before they must make a “diligent effort” to place the coverage with carriers regulated by the state. Diligent effort requires an agent to seek coverage and be rejected by at least three regulated carriers writing the same type of coverage.
  6. Drone regulation – HB 1027 (Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville) preempts the regulation of unmanned aircraft systems (drones) by local governments and grants oversight to the state of Florida. This will prevent drone operators from having to potentially comply with ordinances adopted by 400+ local governments.
  7. Pollution notification – SB 1018 (Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Lake Placid) sets a threshold for when an operator is required to notify the Division of Emergency Management and the Department of Environmental Protection about a pollution event. It also provides a timeframe for the notification and defines what a reportable event means. This legislation is the result of pollution from a sinkhole at the Mosaic fertilizer facility in Mulberry, Fla., last summer. The Scott administration created an emergency rule that shifted the burden of pollution notification from the state to the owner of the property where the spill occurred. Florida Realtors was part of a coalition that successfully challenged the legal authority for this rule, creating an opportunity for the passage of this friendly legislation.

© 2017 Florida Realtors

How Florida Real Estate Bills Fared This Legislative Session

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via Florida Realtors…

For Florida Realtors, the 2016 session was as much about preserving and protecting homeownership as it was ensuring no new laws were passed that would disrupt your business.

Among real estate bills that passed, there are several notable victories for the industry, prospective buyers and property owners:

$500,000 to combat unlicensed real estate activity and possible savings for licensees. Licensees pay $5 into the unlicensed activity fund when they renew their licenses. Under HB 303 (Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland), this fee will be waived if the amount of funds collected exceeds what was spent in the previous two years.

$200.1 million to Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Funds. This is the highest funding level in nine years. Lawmakers provided $135.5 million for rental assistance ( State Housing Initiatives Partnership, or SHIP); $5 million for homelessness challenge grants; and $64.6 million for state housing programs, half of which will go to the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) program. Also, lawmakers appropriated monies from general revenue and other trust funds for several local housing initiatives: $4 million for homelessness programs around the state; $16 million for the Low-income Housing Energy Assistance Program; and $1 million for a variety of community development projects.

Statewide water policy. SB 552 (Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness) was one of the first bills passed by the Legislature and signed into law. It’s a complex bill that lays the foundation for a comprehensive water management program for the state. Several aspects of this 134-page bill align with Florida Realtors’ view on how to preserve one of Florida’s greatest natural assets: (1) protect and restore fresh water springs; (2) give the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) oversight for scientifically-based water research programs; and (3) allow the DEP to oversee pollution control measures for Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee Estuary, and the St. Lucie River and Estuary. Separately, the state budget provides monies for other environmental projects: $159.7 million for Everglades restoration; $56.8 million for northern Everglades and estuaries protection; and $50 million for springs protection projects.

Tax exemptions for seniors, solar energy and first responders. Lawmakers passed three proposed constitutional amendments dealing with taxes that voters will consider in November 2016. HJR 1009 (Rep. Larry Metz, R-Groveland) would grant a property tax break for first responders disabled in the line of duty. HJR 193 (Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Fort Myers) would give commercial property owners a tax break on solar and renewable energy devices. And HJR 275 (Rep. Bryan Avila, R-Hialeah) would allow certain low-income senior property owners to keep their additional homestead exemption even though the value exceeds $250,000 due to improving market conditions.

New type of sinkhole insurance. Property owners in so-called “sinkhole alley” (Hillsborough, Hernando and Pasco counties), where coverage currently available only covers catastrophic loss, will be pleased to know protection against less severe damage may soon be available. SB 1274 (Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater) allows insurance companies to offer a new line of sinkhole insurance that covers damage considered less than catastrophic, such as sunken floors and cracked walls. Policyholders would be required to make repairs and not use an insurance payout for other expenses or purchases.

No new restrictions on vacation rentals. Florida Realtors successfully worked against several bills that would have allowed local governments to ban short-term rentals.

Want to challenge your property assessment? Take along a real estate representative. Property owners who disagree with the value placed on their property may challenge the assessment before their county’s Value Adjustment Board (VAB). Currently, only an attorney or “agent” may represent the owner. HB 499 (Rep. Bryan Avila, R-Hialeah) expands the list of representatives to include a real estate appraiser or broker.

Faster lease approvals for members of the military. SB 184 (Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville), a broad military/veterans affairs bill, took on a House amendment late in the session requiring landlords and condo/homeowners’ associations to approve or deny a rental application submitted by active duty service personnel within seven days. If the application is denied, the prospective tenant must be told why. If the application is not processed within the seven-day period, the landlord and condo/homeowners’ association must lease the unit to the service member.

FREC appointment. The Senate approved Gov. Rick Scott’s appointment of 2011 Florida Realtors President Patti Fitzgerald to the Florida Real Estate Commission. Fitzgerald, broker associate/manager with Illustrated Properties in Jupiter, will serve a three-year term.

Real Estate Bills that did not pass:

Cap on estoppel certificate fees. Fierce opposition made it difficult to advance legislation that would have capped estoppel certificate fees. HB 203 (Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven) made it through all House committees and was poised for discussion on the floor. The Senate version, SB 722 (Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland), died in committee.

Assignment-of-benefits reform. For four years, legislators have tried to curb property insurance fraud, overbilling and lawsuits when property owners allow repair contractors, such as water remediators, to file an insurance claim on their behalf. These abuses, according to insurance companies, drive up rates for all policyholders. Two bills were introduced this session. One pitted trial lawyers against insurance companies, and the other focused on kickbacks that water remediators pay to plumbers and other repairman. Both bills proved too controversial for this Legislature.

New homeowners’ association disclosure. SB 1122 and HB 1375 would have required prospective buyers to receive a homeowners’ association’s governing documents within seven days of closing. The buyer would have been allowed to terminate the contract for purchase within three days after receipt of these documents. Both bills died in committee early in the session.

New renters insurance disclosure. SB 342 would have required two different leases for residential rentals: one lease when tenants are required to purchase a renter’s insurance policy and the other when insurance is not required. SB 342 passed the Senate; its House companion, HB 237, died in committee.

Higher documentary stamp taxes. SB 660 and HB 735 sought to shift the cost of impact fees — paid by builders but often passed along to purchasers of new construction — to all property buyers in the form of higher documentary stamp taxes. If adopted by local governments, doc stamps could have jumped from 70 cents to $1 per $100 of value.

Use of local surtax for water restoration projects. Local governments are permitted to levy an infrastructure surtax to pay for a range of capital projects, such as land for public parks or energy-improvement loans for residential or commercial property. HB 995 and SB 346 would have allowed local governments to use proceeds from this surtax to dredge muck from bodies of water and restore them for public use.

Fair housing, anti-discrimination. Florida Realtors was one of 36 companies and organizations in favor of legislation to ban discrimination in the workplace and housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity. SB 120 and HB 45 died in committee.

Stricter penalties for crimes committed against real estate agents. With attacks against real estate agents on the rise, two bills were filed to stiffen the penalty for certain crimes committed against a real estate professional during property showings. HB 47 made it to the House floor, but its Senate companion, SB 214 , stalled in committee, as legislators questioned why real estate licensees should be given the same protected status as law enforcement officers and sports referees, as currently allowed.