6 New Laws of Interest

Here is a summary of 6 new laws that you should be aware of, including changes to Estoppel Certificates, Condominium Laws, and the new Property Information Report.

Dear Members,

Can’t pass up this opportunity to shout out "GO GATORS!" Kudos to my Gator Baseball Team! National Champs – whoo hoo! No more college sports on TV until football season, so plenty of time to binge-watch House of Cards, Walking Dead, Glow, Master of None…pick your couch-potato poison and relax!

You have heard bits and pieces about legislation that was passed this year so I am using this week’s email to summarize six significant bills for you, all in one place. Next year I will try to do a better job of getting information out to you quickly.

Estoppel Certificate Changes:

Let’s start with changes to Estoppel Certificates. Chapters 718, 719 and 720 have been amended to make changes in the process for obtaining Estoppel Certificates, fees that can be charged and information that must be provided. Here are some highlights:

  • Association/manager must provide the Estoppel Certificate within 10 business days of the request.
  • No fee may be charged if it is not delivered timely. 
  • The Estoppel Certificate must be valid for 30 days (35 days if mailed). I hope this will avoid the need for ordering updated certificates in most situations. 
  • Fee for the Estoppel Certificate is capped at $250 for current accounts. If the account is delinquent, up to $150 can be added to the fee. Up to an additional $100 can be charged for a “rush” order (if you need it within 3 business days). 
  • Requiring payment of the estoppel fee in advance continues to be allowed. The attempt to prohibit advance payment failed. 
  • Different fee caps apply if you are ordering estoppel certificates on multiple units owned by the same person/entity. Look at the revised statute for details on the situations in which this applies.
  • If the deal doesn't close, the association/manager must reimburse the payor within 30 days. This provision was enhanced to make this non-waivable and to specifically allow for attorney’s fees, court costs and damages if action must be taken to recover an estoppel certificate fee.  
  • The information that must be provided in the Estoppel Certificate has been significantly enhanced. Information on parking or garage spaces, insurance policies, violations of rules and regulations, board approval and many other aspects of ownership must be provided.  
  • We have prepared suggested forms for both the Estoppel Certificate and the Estoppel Certificate Request. These are only suggestions and you should review to make sure you are comfortable using them. Please send me your comments and perhaps some suggested edits!  
  • Here is a link to the new law (Chapter 2017-93).

Condominium Law Changes:

HB 1237 is the first of two bills that made various changes to our condominium law. Of particular interest:

  • Legal penalties are now imposed for voting fraud in the context of condominium elections, theft, embezzlement of funds and tampering with association official records.
  • A pending criminal charge against an officer or director of an association disqualifies that officer/director from continued service and from access to association official records.
  • Numerous conflict of interest guidelines have been added.
  • An association may not hire an attorney who represents the management company of the association.
  • Except for timeshare condos, a board member, manager or management company may not purchase a unit at a foreclosure sale resulting from the association’s foreclosure of its lien for unpaid assessments or take title to a unit via deed in lieu of such foreclosure.
  • Board members many not serve more than four consecutive 2-year terms, unless approved by a 2/3 vote or unless there are not enough eligible candidates to fill all the vacancies on the board.
  • Here is a link to the new law (Chapter 2017-188).

SB 1520 amends Section 718.117, Florida Statutes, dealing with termination of condominiums. The statute is amended to provide additional legislative intent for termination. There are some technical changes, too. When a proposed termination is rejected, you have to now wait 24 months (increased from 18 months) before another termination plan can be presented. In addition, the percentage of voting interests that can kill a termination plan has been reduced from 10% to 5%. Here is a link to this new law (Chapter 2017-122).

New Property Information Report:

The next bill of interest is HB 359, which amended the statutes relating to Owners and Encumbrances Reports. They will now be called "Property Information Reports." Property information reports are defined as "any report" that discloses documents or information:

  • Contained in the Official Records (see F.S. 28.222)
  • Contained in the County tax collector records pertaining to ad valorem real property taxes and special assessments imposed by a governmental authority against real property
  • Contained in the Secretary of State’s filing office
  • Contained in another governmental filing office pertaining to real or personal property.
  • All of the above do not have to be part of the Property Information Report; the Report can be as narrow as is desired by the person ordering it.

Besides the change of name, the statutory maximum liability of the issuer has been amended. The previous maximum liability of $1000 has been altered to make the issuer's maximum liability equal to the amount paid for the product. The recitation of liability on the face of the form has been altered to reflect this change.

Within the same bill, there was a change to the platting statutes, specifically Sec. 177.041, F. S. That statute used to require either a title opinion of an attorney at law licensed in Florida or a certification by an abstractor or title company regarding title ownership of, and any open mortgages on, a property submitted for platting. Now, rather than the certification, a property information report is an alternative to the title opinion.

Sec. 197.502, F. S. relating to tax deeds was similarly amended. That statute previously required an ownership and encumbrance report for the necessary information required by the tax collector to perform their responsibilities. The property information report will be the required format going forward. (Credit goes to my good friend Jim Russick for this concise summary of this new law.)

Here is a link to the new law (Chapter 2017-132).

Additional Items:

  • There will be a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot proposing to raise the homestead exemption for ad valorem tax purposes to $75,000.00. Here’s a link to Chapter 2017-35.
  • Notaries can now accept identification cards issued by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Here’s a link to Chapter 2017-17.

The Florida Electronic Wills Act was vetoed by Governor Scott. However, allowing wills, trusts, living wills and Durable Powers of Attorney to be signed electronically and, most importantly, with remote witnesses and notarization, will be a significant topic in the 2018 legislature. So stay tuned!

That’s enough for one email I think. Thanks for reading. Let me know how we can help you. ​

Best Regards,

Melissa Jay Murphy
Senior Vice President and General Counsel