Section 29. Section 718.1224, F.S., is created prohibiting strategic lawsuits against public participation, otherwise known as SLAPP suits, against unit owners. Governmental entities, business organizations, and individuals in Florida would be prohibited from filing or causing to be filed through its employees or agents, any lawsuit, cause of action, claim, cross-claim, or counterclaim against a condominium unit owner without merit and solely because such condominium unit owner has exercised the right to petition for redress of grievances on matters relating to the condominium association. A condominium unit owner sued in violation of this section would have a right to an expeditious resolution. The court may award actual damages and as much as treble damages to a prevailing unit owner as well as attorney’s fees and costs. A condominium association cannot expend association funds in prosecuting a SLAPP suit against a unit owner.
Section 30. Section 718.1255(4)(e), F. S., is amended to allow the division to promptly refer an arbitration case to mediation and removes the ability of the parties in mediation to seek to recover any costs and attorney’s fees as part of the costs and attorney’s fees that may be recovered by the prevailing party in any subsequent litigation.
Section 31. Section 718.302(1), F.S., is amended to include services and products in the list of grants and reservations made by an association prior to turnover that must be fair and reasonable and which may be canceled by unit owners other than the developer.
Section 32. Section 718.3025(1), F.S., is amended to require that in order for a written contract providing for the operation, maintenance or management of the association or condominium property to be enforceable, it must contain provisions that all obligations be complete within one year and must prohibit automatic renewal of the contract.
Section 33. Section 718.3026, F.S., is amended to provide that a contract with a service provider shall not be for a term in excess of three years and shall not contain an automatic renewal clause, and a contract for construction or repair of the property that exceeds 10 percent of the total annual budget must have the approval of an attorney hired by the association.
Section 34. Clarifies that the committee presiding over the hearing required before a fine can be imposed on a unit owner must be made up of unit owners who are not members of the board, and provides that anyone subject to an action under this section must be notified of the violation by certified mail, return receipt requested. Except in the case of imminent danger to person or property, the person noticed has 30 days in which to respond in writing.
Section 35. Section 718.501(1)(e), F.S., is amended to provide that the division must prepare and disseminate a prospectus and other information as provided in this section.
Section 718.501(1)(j), F.S., is amended to provide that the division must work in conjunction with the recommendations of the Ombudsman when providing training and education programs for board members and unit owners.
Upon a finding that any association has committed a violation within the jurisdiction of the division, the association must mail and post a notice to all owners setting forth the facts and findings and the corrective action required. The association must also participate in an educational training program directly related to the violation, taught by a division-approved provider, and completed within 90 days from the notification of the finding to the board members. Failure of the association to comply with these provisions will subject the association to penalties in the amount of $500 for each week that the notice is not provided to the unit owners or the educational training is not completed.
Section 718.501(2)(a), F.S., is amended to provide that one-fifth of all fees deposited to the division’s trust fund must be allocated to the office of the Condominium Ombudsman. The bill language provides for the deposit of one-fifth of all fees, not just condominium fees. Other fees would include fees from timeshare, cooperatives, subdivided lands, and mobile homes.