TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Seven real estate laws drafted by the 2017 Florida Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott went into effect Saturday, including a Florida Realtors priority: estoppel fee caps.

Laws effective July 1

  • Cap on estoppel certificate fees – Sellers of properties who live in an HOA, condo association or co-op will have a limit on the amount they’ll pay for an estoppel certificate, a document that informs a buyer if the seller is current with their dues and assessments. SB 398 (Sen. Passidomo, R-Naples) caps estoppel certificate fees at $250 for unit owners who are current in their assessments. Associations may charge an additional $100 for expedited estoppel certificates (delivered within three business days) and another $150 to owners who are delinquent in their assessments. The bill sets the price of estoppel certificates for multiple units owned by the same person and establishes a uniform, statewide format that ensures buyers and closing agents receive the appropriate information needed to close the real estate transaction. This bill also requires certificates to be valid for 30 days if delivered electronically or 35 days if delivered by mail.
  • Florida’s natural resources – More than $500 million is earmarked for Everglades restoration, beach renourishment and springs restoration. During the session, SB 10 (Sen. Bradley, R-Orange Park) served as the primary piece of policy legislation for Everglades restoration and establishes how the funding will be used for these projects. A key provision of SB 10 is the construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee that is designed to curb nutrient and salinity levels that are harmful to Florida’s valuable natural resources.
  • Condominium termination law – Legislation passed in 2015 to protect condo owners from being forced to sell – possibly at a loss – has several loopholes that real estate investors and bulk buyers exploited. SB 1520(Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater) fine-tunes the rules and modifies the process by reducing the percentage of owners required to reject the termination – from 10 percent to 5 percent.
  • Condominium oversight – A South Florida news report of fraud in condo board elections, misappropriation of funds and rigged bids resulted in a Miami-Dade grand jury recommending changes to Florida’s Condominium Act. HB 1237 (Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami) provides several new condo oversight rules: (1) a condo association with more than 150 units must publish its financial reports and other documents (bylaws, articles of incorporation, condo rules) on a password-protected web page; (2) if an owner is denied documents and fraud is proven, persons responsible for fraudulent activity could face felony charges; (3) the term of a condo board director is limited to eight years, with some exceptions.
  • Private flood insurance – As Realtors petition Congress to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), Florida lawmakers continue to work to attract private flood insurance capital to Florida. HB 813 (Rep. Larry Lee Jr., D-Fort Pierce) accomplishes two primary goals: (1) Rating flexibility for flood insurers is extended from 2019 until 2025 before they must follow guidelines similar to other lines of coverage – a way to encourage private insurers to enter the Florida market; (2) insurance agents can place flood policies with surplus lines insurers for two more years – until 2019 – before they must make a “diligent effort” to place the coverage with carriers regulated by the state. Diligent effort requires an agent to seek coverage and be rejected by at least three regulated carriers writing the same type of coverage.
  • Drone regulation – HB 1027 (Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville) preempts the regulation of unmanned aircraft systems (drones) by local governments and grants oversight to the state of Florida. This will prevent drone operators from having to potentially comply with ordinances adopted by 400+ local governments.
  • Pollution notification – SB 1018 (Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Lake Placid) sets a threshold for when an operator is required to notify the Division of Emergency Management and the Department of Environmental Protection about a pollution event. It also provides a timeframe for the notification and defines what a reportable event means. This legislation is the result of pollution from a sinkhole at the Mosaic fertilizer facility in Mulberry, Fla., last summer. The Scott administration created an emergency rule that shifted the burden of pollution notification from the state to the owner of the property where the spill occurred. Florida Realtors was part of a coalition that successfully challenged the legal authority for this rule, creating an opportunity for the passage of this friendly legislation.

© 2017 Florida Realtors

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