Last Update: 6/19/18
In a bipartisan manner the Florida Legislature passed an important change in how condo boards and condominiums are to conduct themselves here in the Sunshine State. This new legislation addresses some important issue for South Floridians and includes criminal consequences for Condo Boards that do bad things.
Florida Senate Bill 1682 Amends Florida Statute 718.111
Once signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott, the changes to the Florida Condominium Act will be effective within a matter of weeks.
Florida SB1682 will be effective on July 1, 2017, as an amendment to Florida Statute 718.111, as follows:
- prohibiting an officer, director, or manager of a condominium association from soliciting, offering to accept, or accepting a kickback for which consideration has not been provided;
- prohibiting an association from hiring an attorney who represents the management company of the association;
- requiring the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes to maintain and provide copies of financial reports;
- authorizing, rather than requiring, the division to employ full-time attorneys to conduct certain arbitration hearings; and
- prohibiting specified parties from purchasing a unit at a foreclosure sale resulting from the association’s foreclosure of association lien for unpaid assessments or from taking a deed in lieu of foreclosures, etc.
1. Condo Board Members Can Be Arrested for Violating a Criminal Statute
Under this new law, Florida condo board members can face criminal action for certain behavior that has plagued condo owners for years. A prosecutor in the local state attorney’s office will have the power to prosecute a condo board member after that member has been arrested and charged for things like:
The Condo law has been amended so that kickbacks are added into the statute. Not only are kickbacks to a Condo Board Member to be considered subject to a civil penalty under Florida Statute 718.501(1)(d), taking a kickback is also defined as a crime in Florida Statute 617.0834.
B. Voting Fraud
Under the new Condo Law, if there is a forged ballot or voting certificate in a condo election, then it is a crime punishable under Florida Statute 831.01, the state criminal law against forgery. If found guilty, the convicted Condo Board Member will be sentenced for committing a felony of the third degree.
C. Taking Condo Association Funds
Theft or embezzlement of condo funds is defined as a crime punishable under Florida Statute 812.014, the state criminal law against theft. If the amount in controversy (taken or stolen) is high enough, then the convicted Condo Board Member faces sentencing for a felony of the first degree.
Using the Condo Association’s debit card (either in the name of the Condo Association or billed directly to the Condo Association) for anything other than an association expense can be charged and prosecuted as credit card fraud pursuant to Florida Statute 817.61. Over $100 and this becomes a felony of the third degree.
D. Destroying or Hiding (Withholding) Condo Association Records
Under the new Condo Board crime law, any Condo Board member that destroys an official document or record of the Condo Association “in furtherance of a crime” commits a crime. Depending upon the circumstances, that may be a charge of either (1) tampering with evidence as provided in Florida Statute 918.13 or (2) obstruction of justice as provided in Florida Statute 843.02.
Tampering with evidence is a felony of the third degree; obstruction is a misdemeanor of the first degree.
E. Additional Provisions
The new Condo Board law does more. There are provisions in the new law that:
- outlaw the Condo Board members from buying condo units other than time shares that have been foreclosed upon by the Condo Association for unpaid assessments;
- bar the Condo Board from hiring the attorney who represents the Condo Association’s management company; and
- give renters of condo units the right to inspect and copy the Condo Association’s Bylaws and Rules.
2. Removal of Condo Board Members
What if the Condo Board Member fails to adhere to the new statute? What can the condo owners do – do they have to go to court and get help from the judge?
Under the new Condo Law, any Condo Board Member that fails to obey the terms of certain provisions of the statute must be removed from the Condo Board. This can happen even if the Condo Board Member later proves that he or she was not in violation of the statutory language.
A. If Charged With Crime, Condo Board Member Must Be Removed From Board
The law goes further than defining the criminal activity here. It also states that any Florida condo board member who is charged with a crime defined in the amended statute must be taken off the condo board.
Just getting charged requires removal, not conviction.
B. Reinstatement of Charged Condo Board Members
If the condo board member is later cleared of wrongdoing and found innocent, then he or she can be reinstated to the condo board.
C. Failure to Provide Access to Financial Records May Mean Removal
Florida Condo Boards must keep official condo association records open for association members.
If a member of the condominium association is denied access to condo financial records by a condo board member, then the board member can, depending on the reason why access was denied, be removed because they are in violation of the new condo law.
It Started With Media Expose by el Nuevo Herald/Univision 23
According to reports by the Miami Herald, this new Condo Board Law comes after members of the Florida Legislature were shocked by the expose on Condo Board abuses by reporters Brenda Medina and Enrique Flor. See, “Good law goes after condo abuses,” an editorial published on May 1, 2017, by the Miami Herald Editorial Board.
You can read part of that expose here, detailing how Miami-Dade condo unit owners discovered their names had been forged on ballots electing the Condo Board Members, among other things.
Condo Owners Given Power in New Legislation
It’s well known that there have been longstanding abuses by those in power on Florida Condominium Association Boards. Condo owners have been frustrated by their inability to fight back and shocked at how blatant some of these Board Members are in abusing their powers.
Now, Florida Condo Board members can be held to account for their actions. Renters as well as owners have more control over their lives now.
What Should You Do?
If you or a loved one live in a Florida condominium and have an issue or controversy with the Condo Association or the Condo Board, then having an experienced Florida Condo Lawyer to help you investigate and advocate on your behalf can be invaluable.
A good piece of advice is to talk with an experienced Florida real estate lawyer to learn about your rights. Most real estate lawyers, like Larry Tolchinsky, offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person, whichever you prefer) to answer your questions.
For more on Florida Condominium issues, see:
- Selective Enforcement Claims Against Florida Condo Boards and HOAs: Are Associations Playing Favorites?
- Special Assessments Against Florida Condo Owners: What Can Condo Unit Owners Do?
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Larry an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.
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