Although the 2014 Legislative Session does not officially start until March, 2014, preparation for the 2014 Legislative Session is now underway. Legislative Committees will begin to meet this week to discuss bills and to get organized for the 2014 Legislative Session. The members of the Legislature will meet in Tallahassee this week, and then again for one week in October, November, and December. Then they return in January for two weeks, and in February for three week. The 2014 Legislative Session starts on March 4, 2014.
As always, there will be at least one or more bills directly related to the operation of community associations. None have been filed yet. We expect that there will be an effort like last year to regulate homeowners’ associations in the same manner as condominium associations are regulated through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. There will certainly be opposition to that concept, as it would require all homeowners who live in a mandatory homeowners’ association to pay to the State a fee/tax/assessment to pay for such regulation.
As you may remember, one of the significant changes adopted by the Legislature during the 2013 Legislative Session was to require all homeowners’ associations to register with the Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) by November 22, 2013. The DBPR is required to update its website by October 1, 2013 to allow homeowners’ associations to register online. The House Business & Professional Regulation Subcommittee will meet on Tuesday to hear from the DBPR on the status of the online registration system. The website is www.myfloridalicense.com/hoa and it is expected that the online registration system will be “live” on September 26, 2013.
One area which may see changes is the alternate dispute resolution provisions in the Homeowners’ Association Act (HOA Act). Specifically, the HOA Act currently requires mandatory mediation for most disputes between an owner and an HOA. There are efforts to change that system, either by revising the mediation provisions in the HOA Act, replacing it with mandatory arbitration through the DBPR, or a combination of both. I recently met with the Senate Staff of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee to discuss this issue. CALL’s position is that the mandatory mediation provisions should not be significantly changed. Mediation is the most commonly used method of alternative dispute resolution throughout the country, and in our opinion, is the best method for community associations to resolve their disputes, as it requires all parties to meet together and come to a mutually agreed upon solution. If successful, mediation results in an agreed solution, which allows the owner and the association to move past the dispute once it is resolved. The statute requires the parties to share the cost and agree on a mediator and the owners do not have to hire an attorney.
2014 certainly looks to be as active as 2013 with respect to community associations issues. I again look forward to working on these issues and keeping you updated throughout the process.
Very truly yours,
Yeline Goin, Executive Director
Community Association Leadership Lobby (CALL)