Last Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the Governor signed Senate Bill 56 (Fla. Law 2021-91), which goes into effect on Thursday, July 1, 2021, and addresses different aspects of community association operations. Over the next few weeks, I intend to provide you with information on different portions of that law, as well as other legislation relevant to your association. In this legislative news update, I would like to address one particular subject of revision that will probably require immediate changes to your association’s current operations.
The collection of maintenance fees and assessments—the life-blood of the community—is always an important topic. Associations must pursue collections against delinquent owners, but associations often look for that delicate balance between collecting the funds due and empathizing with owners who are struggling financially. Many associations may wish to revisit their current collection procedures and the balance that they have tried to achieve, though, in light of new provisions of Fla.Stats. §718.116, §718.121, §719.108, and §720.3085. Through the enacted revisions and additions to these statutes, an association is now required to send a specific notice to delinquent owners at least 30 days before turning an account over to its attorney for collections, where attorneys’ fees will be imposed on the delinquent owner. The new statutory notice must:
- Provide the owner with the opportunity (30 days) to pay the amount owed without paying attorneys’ fees, and
- Be sent via U.S. mail to the owner at the unit address AND at the owner’s last address as reflected in the association’s records (if that address is not the unit).
A sample of the notice form is included in the statute, itself, and I have included a sample with this blog post for convenience.
The notice is considered to have been given upon its mailing, and the notice is presumed to have been given in compliance with the statute requirements IF a board member, officer, manager, or other agent of the association signs a sworn affidavit confirming its mailing. As you can see in the body of the notice, the owner has 30 days from the date of the notice to pay the entire delinquency due. Once that 30-day period has elapsed, the account may be referred to the association’s attorney, and attorneys’ fees and costs of collection will accrue and become the owner’s responsibility.
In addition, there are two other changes to the collection process for condominium and cooperative associations:
- When a notice of intent to lien-letter is sent to an owner, that owner will now be given 45 days to make payment of the amounts due before a claim of lien may be filed, and
- When a lien is filed and a notice of intent to foreclose-letter is sent to an owner (in a condominium), that owner will now be given 45 days to make payment of the amounts due before a foreclosure action may be filed.
Previously, for condominium and cooperative associations, the deadlines for payment following receipt of these notices were 30 days (for homeowners associations, the deadlines have always been 45 days).
Taking these new statutory timeframes (30 days/45 days/45 days—basically, a total of 4 months) into account, some associations which have, in the past, provided owners with multiple reminders, demand, and warning letters prior to moving forward with more formal collection activities may wish to revise their procedures and timeframes for their voluntary, non-statutory notices. If you or your Board members have any questions or concerns about the foregoing, or should you wish to review your collection process and procedures, please feel free to contact me and the Straley | Otto team.