2021 Legislative Changes to Florida’s Community Association Laws Part I: New Laws Affecting the Collection of Assessments and E-Mail Notice Requirements For Condominiums, Cooperatives and Homeowners’ Associations
On June 18th, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that made substantial changes to community association laws, which affect homeowners’ associations, condominium associations, and cooperatives. The requirements of these new laws become effective on July 1st, 2021. Part I of this four part blog series focuses on the changes to assessment collection procedures and member e-mail notice requirements. If community associations fail to comply with these new laws beginning July 1st, 2021, it can result in legal liability for those associations along with the inability to collect attorney’s fees when pursuing past-due assessments.
The new law requires community associations to send to owners who are delinquent in assessments a new thirty (30) day written Notice of Late Assessment prior to sending the Notice of Intent to Lien. This written Notice of Late Assessment must specify the amount owed and allow the owner an opportunity (thirty days from the date of the notice) to pay the past-due assessments, interest and late fees without paying additional attorney’s fees. This Notice of Late Assessment must be sent by first-class U.S. Mail to the owners and to any alternative addresses an association has for the owners.
If a community association fails to send this new Notice of Late Assessment, then it cannot recover from a delinquent owner the payment of attorney’s fees incurred by the association in collecting the past-due debt. Associations cannot charge owners any attorney’s fees for this new Notice of Late Assessment either. Therefore, associations will likely prefer to send this new notice to delinquent owners themselves rather than use an attorney for this notice, and then send the account to an attorney for collections at the Notice of Intent to Lien stage if the owner fails to pay within thirty (30) days of the Notice of Late Assessment. Associations can utilize a sworn affidavit from a director, officer or manager as a way to provide a rebuttable presumption that the association complied with the Notice of Late Assessment requirement.
All assessment ledgers and/or statements of account must now be sent to owners by first-class mail or by e-mail to an owner’s e-mail address maintained in the association’s official records if the owner has consented to receiving e-mail notices. With this new law, associations, before changing to e-mail delivery to owners for assessment ledgers and/or statements of account, must deliver a written notice of such change to the owners. This ‘notice of intent to change delivery method’ must be sent by first-class mail and delivered to the owners’ addresses maintained in the association’s official records at least thirty (30) days before the delivery method is changed.
And there is more required of community associations before assessment ledgers and/or statements of account can be sent to owners via e-mail. Associations must first receive from each owner an affirmative acknowledgment in writing (e-mail acknowledgement is sufficient) of the owner’s understanding that the association will be changing its method of delivering the assessment ledger and/or statement of account to e-mail before the association may change its method of delivery for that owner. An owner’s affirmative acknowledgment in writing must be maintained by the association as an official record, but this record is not accessible to other owners through an official records request.
For condominium associations and cooperatives, the time-period for owners to pay after receiving the Notice of Intent to Lien and Notice of Intent to Foreclose Lien has been increased from thirty (30) days to now forty-five (45) days. This now makes homeowners’ associations, condominium associations, and cooperatives on the same forty-five (45) day timeline for collection actions.
These are significant changes to community association laws that come with severe consequences to associations that do not comply. Association directors, officers and managers must ensure they are complying with these new laws beginning July 1st, 2021. A community association should seek legal guidance from an attorney knowledgeable in community association law if there are any questions or concerns on these new laws and legal requirements going forward.