TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- April 29, 2015 -- We don't usually send you the end-of-session report on day 58 of the 60-day legislative session. But nothing about this session is usual. Florida Realtors wants you to be aware of the current state of affairs at the capital and the status of bills impacting real estate.
Citing irreconcilable differences over Medicaid Expansion and the budget, the House abruptly adjourned Sine Die early Tuesday afternoon. The Senate continues to work through its docket of bills and pledges to adjourn Sine Die on Friday. Lawmakers will return for a Special Session to pass the state's budget -- their only constitutional duty -- before the fiscal year ends on June 30.
"We had a very bold legislative package this year and a number of successes that benefit consumers and the industry," says Carrie O'Rourke, Florida Realtors' Vice President of Public Policy. "Unfortunately, time ran out on some bills that were picking up speed. We look forward to continuing our work during a Special Session, and are confident we'll have more successes to report."
As the budget impasse between the House and Senate widened, no one realistically expected the House to adjourn three days before the scheduled May 1 deadline. So when House Speaker Steve Crisafulli banged the gavel early Tuesday afternoon signaling adjournment, the mood was surreal. There was disbelief, then disappointment.
One of Florida Realtors' key legislative priorities, legislation that would cap estoppel certificate fees, had passed the Senate and was minutes away from being voted on in the House. It's possible, but not guaranteed, that the estoppel certificate bills could be part of the Special Session. The stalled budget talks also sidelined three of Florida Realtors' other top initiatives this session because they are revenue-dependent: reducing the sales tax on commercial leases; funding of the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Funds; and work on a statewide water policy. Some budget items that don't make news headlines but are important to our industry are also on hold, such as allocating funds to combat unlicensed real estate activity.
"Our Tallahassee team is working every possible angle to ensure our priorities pass during the Special Session," says Bill Martin, Florida Realtors' Chief Executive Officer.
While budget-dependent legislation still remains in limbo, the following real estate-related bills passed and are on their way to the governor.
Flood Insurance. SB 1094 expands an effort that began last year to establish a private, primary flood insurance market so property owners have an alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program. It allows insurers to offer "flexible" flood insurance coverage that, among other things, may be for an agreed upon amount or cover only the building, and not personal property or additional living expenses.
Condominium Terminations.HB 643 ensures that bulk buyers cannot force condo owners out of their homes without providing adequate compensation.
Foreclosures & Tenant Protection.HB 779 allows buyers of foreclosed properties to provide a notice to the tenant that has the effect of a lease termination. The bill allows the tenant to remain in possession of the property for 30 days following receipt of the notice.
Drones. The commercial operation of a drone is still prohibited, but SB 766 will exempt a "person or entity engaged in a business or profession licensed by the state." This exemption will prove valuable to Realtors when such activities are permitted.
Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.HB 715 allows some coastal properties that would have lost Citizens coverage due to reconstruction or renovation to maintain their coverage as long as the building does not exceed 125 percent of its original size.
Flood Insurance Guarantee Fund (FIGA).SB 836 lengthens the amount of time insurance companies have to pay assessments to FIGA, the fund that pays the claims of insurers who go bust. This change is designed to attract private market capital to the state.
Real Estate Brokers & Appraisers.SB 608 provides the Florida Real Estate Commission the ability to reinstate null & void licenses when a hardship occurs; allows a brokerage to temporarily appoint a broker of record in the event of a death or other unexpected situation; and clarifies certain appraiser and appraisal management company recordkeeping requirements.
Depopulating Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.HB 1087 enables policyholders to return to Citizens if the premium charged by a private insurer is 10 percent higher than the insurer's estimated cost. Policyholders may also return to Citizens during a renewal period if the new policy's rate increases more than 10 percent per year during the next 36 months.
Recovery Residences.HB 21 establishes a voluntary process for recovery residences -- also known as "sober homes" and often located in residential areas -- to become state certified. Federal regulations greatly restrict the state's ability to govern sober homes.
Private Property Rights.HB 383 codifies into law the provisions of a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Koontz vs. St. Johns River Management District. The court ruled that a government agency may not require a property owner to, among other things, perform off-site improvements or repairs to other properties he or she does not own and which are located miles away.
A number of real estate bills failed this session. In some cases, that was a good thing. Florida Realtors opposed proposed legislation that would have required organizations with specialty license plates to sell at least 4,000 plates a year, up from 1,000 a year. Some license plates were exempt from the bill, but not Florida Realtors' "Support Homeownership For All" plate.
Another failed initiative would have required landlords to disclose if tenants were required to purchase renter's insurance. For the second consecutive year, neither the House or Senate bills were heard in committee.
We also opposed bills that would have allowed local governments to prohibit vacation rentals and bills that would have allowed counties to raise documentary stamp taxes in lieu of charging impact fees.
Finally, an underwater pool lighting disclosure bill failed.
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