2019 Florida Legislative Session Wrap Up

Published Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Your real estate-ing world got a little bit easier thanks to new legislation that brings modern technology and common sense to transactions.
The Florida Legislature passed two particular bills many Florida Realtors® members had requested: one allowing the use of remote online notaries and the other providing remedies for open and expired permits. Here’s additional highlights from the 2019 session.

FLORIDA REALTORS® BIGGEST LEGISLATIVE VICTORIES

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.

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.

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. 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.

Further reduction to the business rent tax — Businesses throughout Florida will save more than $65 million each year due to a .2% reduction of the business rent tax. The new state tax rate on commercial leases will be 5.5%, down from 5.7% in 2018 and 6% in 2017. Effective: January 1, 2020.

More than $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.

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.

Preventing unlicensed real estate activity — The Legislature allocated up to $500,000 from the Professional Regulation Trust Fund to DBPR to combat unlicensed real estate activity. Effective: July 1, 2019.

OTHER BILLS THAT PASSED OF INTEREST TO REALTORS®

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 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.

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.

BILLS THAT DID NOT PASS

Private property rights/short-term rentals — SB 824 and HB 987 were companion bills supported by Florida Realtors® aimed at protecting the right of private property owners to rent their property on a short-term basis because many local governments continue to enact ordinances that discourage short-term rentals and infringe on this fundamental right.

Condo transfer fee background costs — HB 1075 contained several items related to HOAs and condominium associations. Of note to Realtors® was an allowance for associations to charge a buyer or renter the "actual cost" of a background check plus a $100 administrative fee. Transfer fees are currently capped at $100 per applicant.

Septic tank inspections — HB 85 would have required all homeowners in Florida to have septic tank inspections every five years.

Rent control — HB 6053 and SB 1390 sought to allow local governments to adopt rental control ordinances.

Seller disclosure — HB 163 and SB 1254 would have required sellers to provide buyers a written disclosure if the property is located within a dependent special district. The bill also gave buyers a three-day right of rescission after the disclosure was provided.

Landlord disclosure — HB 153 and SB 1248 would have required landlords to provide prospective tenants with a "physical" copy of the restrictive covenants governing the use and occupancy of the premises.

Swimming pool safety features — HB 805 and SB 724 would have required all residential pools in Florida to be equipped with two of the following safety features when a residential property with a pool is sold: 1) pool barrier, 2) pool cover, 3) door and window alarms, 4) self-closing and self-latching doors and 5) a pool alarm.

> Source: Florida Realtors®.

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