Courtesy of Florida Realtors® Interim Vice President of Public Policy, Danielle Scoggins
The Florida Legislature ended its 61-day legislative session on May 4th after final votes on the state budget. The budget passed the Senate by a vote of 38 - 0 and the House by a vote of 106 - 2.
During the final week of session, the legislature passed several priority bills that we have been working hard to get across the finish line. One of these bills allows the use of remote online notaries to streamline the closing process. The other bill provides remedies for addressing open and expired permits for properties that are being sold.
I am excited to say that these two bills were only a part of our legislative successes this year. We are also celebrating funding to improve water quality, another Business Rent Tax (BRT) cut, and assignment of benefits (AOB) reform.
This end-of-session report covers key real estate legislation filed for this session. Bills passed head to the governor for final approval.
Florida Realtors® Legislative Victories
Approval of online remote notaries
Many states allow the use of online remote notaries in real estate transactions to make closings easier, faster and more convenient for distant parties. Thanks to HB 409, Florida now joins this group of modern-thinking states. Effective: January 1, 2020.
$682 million for environmental projects Communities throughout Florida were devastated last year by environmental problems such as blue-green algae and red tide. The Legislature responded with significant amounts of funding for environmental projects designed to address these issues. The proposed funding includes $322 million for both Everglades restoration and the early planning, design and construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir. Also included: $40 million to complete the raising of Tamiami Trail, $100 million for springs restoration, $50 million for beach restoration projects, $10 million for a red tide/blue green algae task force and $25 million for a septic-to-sewer cost-share program. Effective: July 1, 2019.
Over $200 million for affordable housing projects Lawmakers allocated $200 million from the state and local government housing trust funds for affordable housing programs. This includes $115 million to assist Panhandle residents whose properties were devastated by Hurricane Michael. Effective: July 1, 2019.
Preventing unlicensed real estate activity The Legislature allocated up to $500,000 from the Professional Regulation Trust Fund to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to combat unlicensed real estate activity. Effective: July 1, 2019.
Remedies to open and expired permits
Open and expired permits can delay a closing, and, in some cases, kill a deal because of the uncertainty associated with them. To address the problem, HB 447 allows local governments to close a permit six years after its issuance as long as no apparent safety hazards exist. It also prevents local governments from penalizing property owners for an open permit that was applied for by a previous owner. Effective: October 1, 2019.
Curbing AOB abuse to keep insurance affordable Property insurance assignment of benefits (AOB) came about to reduce insurance claim burdens for property owners. However, some contractors and attorneys abused the AOB process by overcharging for repairs and suing insurance carriers when they refuse to pay, leading to higher premiums for everyone. HB 7065 limits contractors’ ability to receive payment for their attorney fees if the claim is settled or won in court. This is commonly referred to as one-way attorney fees and the primary incentive behind AOB fraud. Please note: All bill provisions become effective on July 1, 2019, except for provisions relating to attorney fees, which become effective when the bill is signed into law.
Continued funding for LIDAR mapping The budget includes language that allows the Division of Emergency Management to continue spending the $15 million currently being used for LIDAR (light detection and ranging) mapping. LIDAR is a next-generation mapping technique and has the potential to lower flood insurance rates throughout Florida. Effective: July 1, 2019.
Other Bills of Interest to Realtors®
Banning local governments from restricting vegetable gardens — SB 82 prevents local governments from regulating homeowners’ vegetable gardens. The issue stemmed from a couple in Miami Shores who had to uproot their vegetable garden due to a local ordinance. This does not apply to homeowners associations (HOAs). Effective: July 1, 2019.
Property insurance changes — HB 301 includes a host of insurance revisions. The bill removes the $100 cap for insurers who provide loss control/mitigation goods or services (e.g. a temperature/humidity sensor) to policyholders and makes it easier for owners who have dwellings valued at $700,000 or more to obtain surplus lines of coverage. Effective: July 1, 2019.
Flood insurance matters — HB 617 requires insurers that do not provide flood insurance to provide a disclosure at initial issuance and each renewal regarding the importance of flood insurance. Effective: July 1, 2019.
Property owner bill of rights and tree trimming SB 1400 requires county appraisers to publish a list of constitutionally protected property rights on their websites. The bill also allows property owners to trim or remove trees on their property without consequence as Long as they have a letter from a certified arborist or landscape architect stating the tree is a danger. Effective: July 1, 2019.
Military affairs - SB 620, in its original form, included a provision that capped the total money owed by an active duty service member who was entering into a lease at no more than the total of two months’ rent. Although the bill passed, the language pertaining to the cap was removed from the bill. Effective: July 1, 2019.
Fighting red tide through research and technology — SB 1552 establishes the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative, a partnership between the state and Mote Marine Laboratory to develop technologies that can control and mitigate red tide and its impact. Lawmakers appropriated $3 million a year for the next six years to fund the initiative. Effective: July 1, 2019.
Providing more structure for beach restoration projects — HB 325 creates a five-year work plan for beach renourishment projects throughout Florida based on a specific set of criteria. The new approach is intended to remove the arbitrary selection of projects that currently exists. Effective: July 1, 2019.
Fire and life safety systems for condos HB 647 extends the deadline for high-rise condominiums that must be retrofitted with fire sprinklers or another engineered life safety system from Dec. 31, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2023. Effective: July 1, 2019.
Texting while driving ban gets tougher HB 107 strengthens Florida’s existing ban on texting, emailing and instant messaging while driving. The bill changes current enforcement of the ban from a secondary offense to a primary offense, meaning law enforcement can now stop a vehicle solely for texting while driving. Effective: July 1, 2019.
More options for wetlands mitigation projects HB 521 allows developers in areas lacking private wetlands mitigation credits to partner with local governments to mitigate on publicly-owned conservation land. Effective: July 1, 2019.