Friday, July 2, 2010

New Condo Law

As you may know, there have been substantial changes to the laws that affect condominium associations. As of yesterday, July 1, 2010, the following laws have taken effect. Please note that the below items are a summary of the actual law. If you want additional information on any of the below items, please contact me.

1. Collecting Rent Directly from Tenants: Section 718.116(11) was added to the Condominium Act. It states as follows: If the unit is occupied by a tenant and the unit owner is delinquent in paying any monetary obligation due to the association, the association may make a written demand that the tenant pay the future monetary obligations related to the condominium unit to the association, and the tenant must make such payment. The association may sue to evict the tenant as if the association were a landlord if the tenant fails to pay a required payment to the association. A tenant who acts in good faith in response to a written demand from an association is immune from any claim from the unit owner.

2. Denial of Common Areas: Associations are now allowed to deny owners or occupants the use of common areas and recreational amenities (not to include utility services, elevators or parking spaces) when the owner is more than 90 days delinquent in paying financial obligations due to the association and may deny the owner's voting rights.

3. Past-Due Assessments on Foreclosures: Lenders are now required to pay twelve (12) months or 1% of the mortgage, the lessor of. This is an increase from the six (6) months or 1% of the mortgage, the lessor of.

4. Sprinkler Systems: The requirement for mandatory retrofits of sprinkler systems in condos over seventy-five (75) feet high has been removed.

5. Insurance: The provision that required every individual unit owner to obtain hazard insurance has been repealed.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Governor Crist vetoes Senate Bill 1964

On June 1, 2010 Governor Crist vetoed Senate Bill 1964. This bill was quite controversial as it limited the tort liability of design professionals for economic damages resulting from their design defects. In essence, S.B. 1964 was legislatively overruling the Florida Supreme Court's decision of Moransais v. Heathman, 744 So.2d 973 (Fla. 1999). The Moransais decision held that the "economic loss rule" does not prevent a cause of action for negligence against a design professional. S.B. 1964 would have affected engineers, architects, surveyors interior designers and landscape architects. Governor Crist concluded that the proposed limit of liability would have granted unique privileges and advantages to design professionals by removing a consumer's right to bring a tort cause of action against them. Since errors in design may create severe economic damages, Governor Crist was concerned that this bill failed to provide any alternate remedies and shifted the losses on to consumers.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Avoiding the CON in Construction

I normally don't write reviews for a book, but I will definitely make an exception for this one. I just finished reading "Avoiding the CON in Construction". It was great! This book is very easy to read, extremely informative and very practical. I highly encourage any homeowner that is thinking of taking on a construction project to read it. It will definitely help keep the homeowner out of trouble.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Soil liquefaction, earthquakes and Haiti

In addition to poor design and defective construction, one of the causes of the mass destruction we saw during last month’s earthquake in Haiti is “liquefaction”. Liquefaction is a naturally occurring event in which the strength of soil is reduced by earthquake shaking. Specifically, the earthquake shaking causes a drop in the soil’s bearing capacity. Liquefaction is more likely to occur in low lying areas where the soil is saturated. When liquefaction occurs, the ability of a soil to support the foundation of a building is reduced, thereby causing catastrophic damage to the building itself. In a nutshell, the soil turns into a liquid allowing everything it previously supported to sink. Many buildings in Haiti were built in low lying areas where liquefaction is likely to occur. Buildings can be designed to withstand liquefaction. Through laboratory and field testing, it can be determined how the building should be designed to withstand liquefaction. The tragedy that occurred in Haiti underlines the importance of developing a thorough building code and strictly enforcing it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Crane Ordinance: Part 2

Last week, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Miami rejected part of Miami-Dade County's crane ordinance. The Court concluded that part of Miami-Dade County's crane ordinance was overruled by federal wind load standards set forth by OSHA. Miami-Dade County had approved the ordinance after a series of fatal crane accidents in the county. The Miami-Dade County Crane ordinance requires crane operators to undergo certification and requires that cranes be designed as "permanent" structures. The Plaintiff's who challenged the ordinance argued that cranes should be designed as "temporary" structures. This distinction is important because it determines the wind speed the cranes must be designed for. Currently, most crane manufacturers design cranes to meet European guidelines (i.e. 92 mph winds). On the other hand, the County Ordinance requires that they be designed to Hurricane Category 3 winds (111-130 mph).

I personally think this decision is a big win for the construction industry. It will prevent municipalities from legislating ordinances that require more than what's already required by OSHA. Designing a crane as a "permanent structure" to wind speeds of 130 mph is a total overkill that will drive up the cost of construction.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Finally, some relief for the HOA's!

There was a very interesting article in today's Daily Business Review. Recently, in a "reverse foreclosure", a Miami-Dade Circuit judge agreed to force a lender to take title to a property from a homeowners association. Pursuant to Florida Law, banks are only required to pay the lessor of, 12 months or 1% of the mortgage in past due homeowners association dues. Therefore, many lenders are accused of delaying the foreclosure process because the association dues they are responsible to pay, are capped. In this case, the association had already taken title to the unit but was unable to sell it because of the lenders existing foreclosure lawsuit. The subject property had been in foreclosure for 2 1/2 years. In order to force the bank to speed up the foreclosure process and the Association's dues, the Association filed a Motion for Summary Judgment against itself asking the Court to force the lender to take over the property. Judge Gerald Bagley agreed with the Associations request, giving Associations much needed help.