On June 16, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 630 into law. Earlier this year, the Florida State legislature passed overhaul changes to Florida’s Condominium Act (Chapter 718) as well as Homeowners’ Association Act (Chapter 720). These amendments went into effect on July 1, 2021 and some of the changes drastically bolster the rights of condominium owners and homeowners in Florida.
According to Jeff Kominsky, an LS Carlson Law Partner based in Florida, “This new law will create a seismic shift in the way condominium owners are allowed to investigate and pursue claims.” Kominsky, an attorney who exclusively represents property owners in Florida, further added, “Associations will have to think twice about daring condominium owners to sue them in court.”
One of the statutory rights given to every condominium owner and homeowner in Florida is the right to access and inspect Official Records of the Association. The new Florida law ends the Association’s ability to require a condominium owner to demonstrate any purpose or state any reason for the request for this access and inspection. While there are still procedural pitfalls as to how to make the actual request to inspect Official Records of the Association, the amended Florida Statutes have provided more details as to what a property owner can access. For example, a property owner can now inspect bids for work to be performed for at least 1 year after receipt of the bid. Besides a property owner’s right to access and inspect these records, perhaps one of the most significant changes involves a condominium property owner’s new tactical options to pursue pre-litigation claims against an Association. Previously, certain disputes such as the Association’s failure to properly conduct meetings required “mandatory nonbinding arbitration” against the condominium association. Nonbinding arbitration can not only be expensive but may not lead to a final decision unless all the parties agree. Now, Florida will be allowing the condominium owner to elect dispute resolution options between nonbinding arbitration or pre-suit mediation. While pre-suit mediation can now be elected to resolve a significant number of disputes, election and recall disputes still require nonbinding arbitration.
Some of these amended statutory rights will drastically help property owners be treated more equally and fairly by their Associations. These new laws should promote more transparency and willingness to resolve disputes before they escalate into the public domain. For condominium owners, the new pre-suit options to resolve certain disputes are game-changers. Condominium owners will also now have the power to investigate claims with less disclosure to the Association and more details on what they can access and inspect.
The last thing a property owner wants to feel is helpless when having issues with an Association. Some good news is on the horizon in the Sunshine State. Both recent and existing property owners should be aware of new significant legal changes that could impact how to approach disputes with an Association and make it more accountable. Regardless of these new changes, all property owners need to keep in mind that each Association has its own rules within the “Governing Documents.” While these documents are critical to review before considering a possible claim, the Association cannot use the Governing Documents as a shield and circumvent a property owner’s new statutory rights in Florida.
About LS Carlson Law
Since 2006, LS Carlson Law has developed the successful legal strategies against common interest developments on behalf of homeowners throughout the country. Their firm has won hundreds of cases involving homeowner, community, and condominium association disputes and remains at the forefront in pioneering new tactics with the ever-changing legal landscape within Florida.
Jeffrey Kominsky, Partner