New law aims to protect homeowner associations from pricey attorney fees

Jun 5, 2014 | Media

Source: associations-from-pricey-attorney-fees-20140625/

By James L. Rosica in Tallahassee

A new law takes effect next Tuesday clarifying what community association managers can do without having to hire an attorney.

The measure (HB 7037) was approved by Gov. Rick Scott on June 13, despite a request from The Florida Bar to veto it.

Hired managers of homeowners associations sought help from lawmakers after the Bar, which regulates the state’s legal profession, raised concerns that some duties constituted unlicensed – and thus illegal – lawyering.

The new law spells out those duties, like completing lien and delinquency paperwork, and codifies the forms managers need to use. Attorneys say community managers are taking on more duties, like filling out legal paperwork, that should be handled by qualified lawyers.

Managers, and the homeowners they work for, counter that they should be allowed to fill out routine forms without the expense of an attorney.

Having to regularly hire attorneys for frequent tasks will increase association fees, they said.

That paperwork has gone up in recent years as areas have had to deal with recession-induced foreclosures, as one example.
Mark Anderson, lobbyist for the community association managers, said the law will “keep more than 18,000 licensed professionals on the job.”

Anderson previously had said the measure was needed “so that homeowners will no longer be in jeopardy of being forced to use costly lawyers to hire a pool cleaner or declare a quorum at a condo board meeting.”

The Florida Bar also had asked the state’s Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on the matter, which is still in the works.