HOA fines getting tamed in Florida? Legislature to discuss over a dozen new bills

Article Courtesy of USA TODAY NETWORK - Florida

By C. A. Bridges

Published January 24, 2024


Florida Democratic and Republican lawmakers may finally have found an issue they agree on. Homeowner's Associations.

Sometimes it seems that everyone living in an HOA has a horror story about petty or arbitrary fines, harassment, inflexible and overly restrictive rules regarding the appearance of homes and lawns, the lack of budget transparency, or just living under the watchful eyes of HOA busybodies with tape measures and a lot of free time.

Not all HOAs are the same, of course, and many people enjoy the structure, comfort and sense of community from living in a shared neighborhood with agreed-upon standards and provided services. But complaints about HOAs have been rising in recent years and several legislators from both sides of the aisle have proposed more than a dozen bills into this year's legislative session to rein in some of the worst excesses.

“We're seeing harassment of homeowners,” Rep. Juan Carlos Porras, R-Miami, said at a town hall meeting in October. “We're seeing selective enforcement of bylaws and covenants. And really there's no form of accountability.”

Bills will be subject to revision and amendments throughout the course of the session but here's a look at what's being proposed.

HB 1203, Homeowners' Association: When and how they can fine
Rep. Tiffany Esposito, R-Fort Myers
Possibly the most sweeping of the HOA bills, this one amounts to a Homeowner's Bill of Rights by enforcing transparency and prohibiting some of the more restrictive rules and covenants. The bill:

  • Requires the HOA to provide to homeowners on request a detailed accounting of any amounts the homeowners owe. Failure to provide it within 10 days will result in a complete waiver of any outstanding fines.

  • Prohibits the HOA from restrictions on the interior of the structure not visible from the home's frontage or adjacent property.

  • Mandates an appeal process for homeowners whose "rights and privileges have been unreasonably infringed upon or impaired" due to an architectural or construction decision from the HOA or an HOA committee. The appeals board may not consist of HOA or HOA committee officers or employees.
    Requires written notice of fines or suspensions and provides deadlines for various communications and actions.

  • Blocks fines or suspensions for leaving garbage cans out within 24 hours of the designated collection time or leaving holiday decorations up longer than specified in the contract (unless left up more than a week after the homeowner receives written notice).

  • Prevents restrictions against parking personal vehicles, "including a pickup truck" in the homeowner's driveway, common parking lots, public roads and rights-of-way. Allows homeowners to park noncommercial work vehicles in their driveways.

  • Allows homeowners to install hurricane protection elements, metal roofs, artificial turf, vegetable gardens or clotheslines and prevents grass-only or grass-majority restrictions.

  • Limits amounts of fines, annual assessment fee growth, and what can become a lien.

  • Blocks retroactive enforcement of new rules or covenants.

HB 431/SB 826, Restricts or caps fines levied by Homeowners' Associations
Rep. Kristen Arrington, D-Osceola/Sen. Victor M. Torres, Jr., D-Kissimmee
Shorter than most of the rest, these bills would be a welcome sight to many HOA members.
It's already Florida law that an HOA may not impose a fine of more than $100 for any single violation. But these bills would prohibit fines levied for each day of a continuing violation from exceeding $500, rather than the current $1,000.

HB 1243, Homeowners' Association and getting answers
Rep. Juan Carlos Porras, R-Miami
This one takes aim at remote, hard-to-reach managers and the potential for corruption.

  • Requires an HOA manager or community association management firm to attend at least one member meeting per year in person.

  • Requires publicly available contact info for every manager or representative assigned to that HOA.

  • Requires the HOA or management firm to provide a copy of the HOA contract upon request.

  • Makes accepting bribes of money, goods or services between $25 and $1,000 a first-degree misdemeanor and anything over $1,000 a third-degree felony.

  • Requires restrictions on construction or improvement to be applied consistently, requires any refusal to include the rule or covenant the association or committee used to deny the request.

  • Specifies necessary continuing education for HOA managers or management firms.

Other Homeowner's Association-related bills in the 2024 Florida Legislative Session

HB 59/SB 50, Provision of Homeowners’ Association Rules and Covenants: Requires HOAs to provide copies of the rules and covenants to every member before Oct. 1, 2024 and to every new member from then on; requires the HOA to post a complete copy of the rules and covenants on the home page of its website; requires the HOA to provide notices by email or letter. (Rep. Kristen Arrington, D-Osceola/Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando)

HB 173, Not-for-Profit Corporations that Operate Residential Homeowners Associations: Require not-for-profit HOAs to donate or use at least 15% of the association's annual income to benefit the community and make available upon request records of how and where such funds were used or donated. (Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Duval)

HB 293/SB 600, Hurricane Protections for Homeowners' Associations: Requires HOAs to adopt hurricane protection specifications, including the color and style, and prohibits denials of applications to install certain hurricane protection elements. (Rep. Tyler Sirois, R-Brevard/Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R- Citrus)

SB 426, Community Associations. Creates the Condominium Fraud Investigation Pilot Program and the Office of the Homeowners Association Ombudsman. (Rep. Alina Garcia, R-Miami-Dade)

HB 595/SB 942, Homeowners Associations Database: Requires the state to establish a searchable database that contains specific information regarding each HOA; requires HOAs to notify the state of any changes. (Rep. Juan Carlos Porros, R-Miami/Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, R-Monroe)

HB 627/SB 1234, Disclosure Requirements for Prospective Purchasers: Requires HOAs to give specific documents to any prospective buyers of an HOA-controlled property, including a disclosure summary that explains the HOA and potential fines and fees, a current copy of the governing documents, the most recent year-end financial information and the minutes from the last year's worth of meetings. Also allows buyers a three-day cancellation period, not including Saturdays, Sundays, or legal holidays. (Rep. James Buchanan, R-Sarasota/Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, R-Doral)

HB 979/SB 278, Estoppel Certificates: Prohibit HOAs from charging fees to prepare and deliver estoppel certificates (confirmation of the current status of the lease for the property and any moneys owed or fees due, among other things). (Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, R-Lee/Sen. Jonathan Martin, R-Lee)