Florida’s new “Homeowners’ Association Bill of Rights” (HB 919) law presents important changes for HOA communities and their boards of directors. The law, which only applies to HOAs and goes into effect on Sunday, Oct. 1, focuses on transparency and accountability, with provisions addressing kickbacks, conflicts of interest and fraudulent voting activities.
As part of the state’s efforts focusing on the integrity of association directors, the new law mandates the removal of any officer/director who is charged with forgery related to elections, theft or embezzlement of HOA funds, destruction of records, or obstruction of justice. Board members are mandated to disclose any activity that could be perceived as a conflict of interest at least 14 days prior to voting on an issue or entering into a contract that is subject to the conflict, and they are expressly prohibited from accepting anything of value from those providing or proposing to provide services to the association.
For HOA directors who were appointed to the board by the community’s developer, they will be required to disclose to the association their relationship with the developer as well as any activity that would be considered a conflict of interest.
The new law also focuses on fraudulent voting activities in elections. Actions such as providing false information, using bribery or intimidation, and altering ballots are officially classified as misdemeanors punishable by law enforcement.
HB 919 also clarifies that notices for fines for violations of the declaration, association bylaws or reasonable rules and regulations must be sent at least 14 days prior to a fining or suspension hearing, and they must state the description of the alleged violation, the action to cure the violation (if applicable), and the date and location of the hearing, which the owner may attend via telephone or the internet.
Other changes address meeting notices and official association records. All posted notices for board meetings will be required to specifically identify agenda items, and the official roster of association members must include their “designated” mailing address, which is their property address unless they have provided a different one in writing.
These changes, most of which mirror those that have already been added to the state’s laws governing condominium associations, will help HOAs to strengthen their safeguards against the potential for any fraud, theft and abuse. With the help of highly qualified and experienced legal counsel and property management, their boards of directors will be able to understand and comply with these and all other laws focusing on association fairness and integrity.
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Laura M. Manning-Hudson is the managing shareholder of the West Palm Beach office of the law firm of Siegfried Rivera. She is board certified as an expert in community association law by The Florida Bar, and is one of the firm’s most prolific contributors to its association law blog at www.FloridaHOALawyerBlog.com. The firm also maintains offices in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and its attorneys focus on real estate, community association, construction and insurance law. www.SiegfriedRivera.com, LManning@SiegfriedRivera.com, (561) 296-5444.