Florida's 2016 legislative session has come to a close as both chambers declared sine die on Friday evening. It has been a whirlwind 60 days of session and FAA can claim several legislative victories this year.
Two major pieces of legislation that may positively affect the multifamily industry passed during this session. Firstly, a bill drafted by FAA to allow Certified Apartment Maintenance Technicians (CAMTs) to repair HVAC, water heater, and AC units passed the House and Senate unanimously. FAA has been promoting this legislation for two legislative sessions. HB 535 sponsored by Rep. Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral) was voted on and overwhelmingly passed 116-0 on March 3. The Senate bill, SB 704, sponsored by Sen. Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) was "laid on the table," and the Senate adopted the House version of the bill. The bill was read and voted on on March 9 and passed unanimously with a vote of 38-0. As of March 11, all passed bills are sent to the governor to be signed into law.
Additionally, as part of the Sadowski Coalition, FAA helped to secure $200 million in funding for affordable housing. Affordable housing funds are derived from ‘’doc stamp’’ revenue (taxes collected from real estate transactions) and are distributed by the state in the form of loans. These loans are used to refurbish aging affordable housing units and build new housing, which serves Florida’s most vulnerable populations (veterans, senior citizens, people with disabilities, and those experiencing homelessness). The funds help to serve Floridians, limit inclusionary zoning, and have a positive economic impact on the state’s economy.
In addition to supporting this legislation, FAA took a defensive strategy regarding several important bills:
SB 474/HB 53, sponsored by Sen. Oscar Brayon (D-Miami Gardens) and Rep. Daphne Campbell (D-Miami Shores) respectively, would have had devastating implications for the multifamily industry. This legislation would have established criminal penalties for apartment owners and employees who do not meet the maintenance requirements specified in CH 83.51-83.59. This legislation would have allowed a landlord or apartment employee to be charged with a misdemeanor for the first offense and potentially a felony if standards of annual repairs and pest control are not met. According to the state Department of Corrections (Statute 775.083) a third-degree felony could result in a sentence of up to five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. A first degree misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. FAA is committed to keeping criminal penalties for landlords and apartment employees out of landlord-tenant law and was able to keep this legislation from being heard in a single committee meeting.
SB 40, sponsored by Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D- Hollywood), would have mandated increased playground equipment inspections and would have required apartment communities either to pay a certified playground equipment inspector to conduct the inspections or to send an apartment community staff person for training and licensing to become a certified playground inspector. This legislation was not heard in any committee meetings.
SB 7008/ HB 339, sponsored by Sen. Jeremy Ring (D-Margate) and Rep. Darryl Rouson (D-Saint Petersburg) respectively, would have allowed a resident to seek civil action against an apartment community for housing discrimination before going through any of the current state-required administrative remedies (such as mediation). The bill also would have doubled the time frame currently allowed in Florida to seek civil action (from one year to two years). Staff analysis of the bill revealed that Florida may not be in compliance with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and could risk losing HUD funding if some of the administrative remedies are not removed under Florida law. The bill died in messages and may be filed again in 2017.
SB 1406/ HB 849, sponsored by Sen Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens) and Rep. Cynthia Stafford (D-Opa Locka) respectively, would have changed the requirements for a resident to pay rent into a court registry during eviction proceedings. Under current Florida law, during an eviction a tenant can withhold rent payments to a landlord, but the tenant is required to pay the accrued rent into the court registry. SB 1406/HB 849 would have permitted the court to waive this requirement if the landlord fails to comply with certain requirements, including applicable building, housing, or health codes, if the landlord is acting in bad faith, or if the landlord violates other existing provisions. This legislation died before being voted on in any committee meetings.
One piece of legislation supported by FAA did not pass in 2016. SB 342/HB 327 would have allowed a landlord to specify in a lease if renters insurance is required by the community to state in the lease the amount and types of coverage required. SB 342 sponsored by Sen. Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) passed a final vote of 39-0 in the Senate. The House companion, HB 327 sponsored by Rep. Bobby Dubose (D-Fort Lauderdale), died in its second committee.
2016 proved to be an incredibly successful legislative year for the multifamily industry. Our continued success depends on the financial strength of APAC. Consider your APAC contribution as a form of business insurance. You are making an investment to ensure the election of candidates who will help protect our industry. Remember, your freedom to do business depends on our continued ability to advocate for your issues! You can give online here.
NAA Update: NAA/NMHC will be testifying before the U.S. House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance regarding barriers to affordable housing development/operations. NAA/NMHC are looking for real world examples of common issues that they can relay to the subcommittee. Please respond with your feedback no later than this Thursday, March 17, by emailing Carly Simpson at NAA, Carly@naahq.org.