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2020 Florida Legislature Adjourns

Housing Wins! Affordable Housing, Environment, Housing Discrimination & Emotional Support Animals Among Top Victories

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — March 19, 2020 — 1:49 pm — For the first time in more than a decade, the state’s housing trust funds have been fully funded at $370 million, giving Floridians additional resources they can use to achieve the dream of home ownership. This has the ability to provide millions of dollars in downpayment assistance in 2021 as the state recovers from the impact of COVID-19.

In addition to fully funding the housing trust funds, the Florida Legislature passed other Florida Realtors priorities including record amounts of environmental funding, comprehensive affordable housing policy changes, eliminating discriminatory housing restrictions and providing clear guidelines for emotional support animal (ESA) certificates. Bills passed head to the governor for final approval.

Florida Realtors biggest legislative victories

• Full funding of the housing trust funds ($370 million) — For the first time since 2006, lawmakers appropriated all funds available in the State and Local Government Housing Trust Funds for affordable housing programs. The full appropriation of $370 million includes $225 million for SHIP, which will result in an incredible increase in downpayment assistance, $115 million for SAIL and $30 million to assist Panhandle residents whose properties were devastated by Hurricane Michael.

• Increased flexibility for affordable housing projects — The Legislature approved a measure which gives local governments increased flexibility regarding where they can build affordable housing developments.

• Curbing emotional support animal certificate abuse — The Legislature passed a bill that will require a patient who needs an ESA certificate to see a licensed medical practitioner with whom they have an established professional relationship. The target of this new law is to reduce the abuse seen with online transactions to obtain these certificates.

• Removal of blatant fair housing violations from documents — A bill was passed that removes discriminatory language from title transactions such as deeds, and expressly states the restrictions are unlawful, unenforceable and null and void. It also provides for summary removal of discriminatory restrictions from the governing documents of a property owners’ association.

• $625 million for environmental projects — The Legislature continues to allocate record levels of funding for projects that help address Florida’s environmental issues. This year’s funding of more than $625 million includes money for Everglades restoration, springs protection, red tide research and a monumental amount of funding for wastewater facility treatment upgrades

• Another big step for water quality in Florida — The Legislature passed a comprehensive water quality bill that sets the blueprint for septic tank mitigation and replacement where available. It also addresses new reporting requirements for the agriculture industry and wastewater facilities.

• Making commercial leases easier — The Legislature passed a measure that eliminates the outdated requirement in Florida law that requires two people to witness the signing of leases longer than a year.

• Extending property tax benefits — The Legislature passed a joint resolution for the November 2020 ballot that extends the portability of a homestead property tax benefit from two years to three years.

• Preventing unlicensed real estate activity — The Legislature allocated up to $500,000 to combat unlicensed real estate activity.
The Legislature also passed a multitude of other bills of interest to Realtors. They include things such as fines for excessive wastewater dumping, additional remedies for nuisance properties, increased condo insurance coverage and protecting private property rights as communities manage their growth.

Additionally, many bills of interest made it far into the legislative process and will likely come back again next session for consideration. These bills include short-term rental regulation, further cuts to the Business Rent Tax, transfer fees charged by community associations, swimming pool safety and more. Florida Realtors will continue to work on these issues next year.

For more information on these and other bills, visit the Florida Realtors advocacy website.

Remedies to Open and Expired Permits — Open and expired permits can delay a closing, and in some cases, kill the 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.

***    Additional 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.

  • Approval of Online Remote Notaries — HB 409 allows the use of online remote notaries in real estate transactions to make closings easier, faster and more convenient for distant parties. Effective: January 1, 2020.
  • Curbing AOB Abuse to Keep Insurance Affordable — HB 7065 limits the ability of contractors 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 is the primary incentive behind AOB fraud. Please note, all provisions of the bill become effective on July 1, 2019, except for provisions relating to attorney fees which become effective upon the bill being signed into law.
  • $682 Million for Environmental Projects — Communities throughout Florida were devastated last year by environmental issues such as blue-green algae and red tide. The Legislature responded with significant amounts of funding for environmental projects designed to address these problems. Effective: July 1, 2019.
  • More than $200 million for Affordable Housing Projects — The Legislature allocated $200.6 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 the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to combat unlicensed real estate activity. Effective: July 1, 2019.

For three days, Realtors took over Tallahassee and made their voices heard up and down the halls of the Capitol. Although they visited with more than a hundred legislators, the real highlight came when Gov. Ron DeSantis made a surprise visit during the legislative briefing luncheon. The governor spoke of being bold, getting things done and speaking in a unified voice. Based on the reactions of the crowd, his message was received loud and clear.


As for our priorities, the biggest news of week three was the House and Senate rolling out their respective budget proposals for the upcoming fiscal year. The Senate wants to spend $90.3 billion during the fiscal year, while the House is proposing a $89.9 billion budget. Both legislative chambers are proposing smaller plans than the governor’s recommended budget – totaling $91.3 billion. This roll-out is the start of the budget negotiation process, which will take place over the next several weeks.

Included in those initial budget numbers was some very good news for the environment. The House proposed a $607 million budget that will be spent on Water Quality, Everglades Restoration and other Environmental projects and the Senate proposed $660 million for the same environmental priorities. These initial budget numbers are very encouraging and provide some indication that the final environmental spending plan will be very close to the governor’s proposal of $625 million.

We also saw positive movement of SB 122 and HB 7065, which are our supported AOB reform bills. SB 122 was voted favorably out of the Judiciary Committee on a 5 – 1 vote and now moves on to its final committee stop, the Rules Committee. HB 7065 was voted favorably out of the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee on a 14 – 1 vote and moves on to its final committee stop, the Judiciary Committee.

Additionally, we saw HB 447, our supported open and expired permits bill, move successfully out of the Business and Professions Subcommittee on a 14 – 0 vote. It now moves to its second committee stop, the Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee.

In terms of what to expect in week four, it will be a big week for our private property rights bills. SB 824 will be up in the Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. and HB 987 will be heard on Tuesday in the Business & Professions Subcommittee at noon. This will be the first committee stop for both bills.



Priority Bills We Are Watching
Stay up to date on the legislative priorities we are actively supporting this session.


Private Property Rights/Vacation Rentals
• SB 824 - Preempting the regulation of vacation rentals to the state; requiring each person applying for a vacation rental license to provide the Division of Hotels and Restaurants of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation with specified information, etc.
• HB 987 - Companion bill to SB 824.
Open and Expired Building Permits
• HB 447 - Provides requirements related to open & expired permits, including permit requirements, closing of permits, amendment of Florida Building Code, powers of local governmental entities, applicability, & notice requirements.
• SB 902 - Companion bill to HB 447.
Assignment of Benefits (AOB)
• SB 122 - Attorney Fee Awards Under Insurance Policies and Contracts: Revising certain attorney fee provisions in the Florida Insurance Code to specify that an insured or beneficiary entitled, under certain circumstances, to attorney fees under an insurance policy or contract must be a named insured or named beneficiary; providing that such right to attorney fees may not be assigned or extended by agreement, except to certain persons, etc.
• HB 7065 – companion bill to SB 122.
Online Remote Notaries
• HB 409 - Authorizes online notarizations; specifies requirements & standards for performance of such online notarizations; requires DOS to adopt rules by specified date.
• SB 548 - Companion bill to HB 409.
Other Bills of Interest
The below are some additional bills of interest that we are watching.

Deregulation of Professions and Occupations
• HB 27 - Removes regulations on specified DBPR professions, including labor organizations, hair braiders, hair wrappers & body wrappers, & boxing timekeepers & announcers. PLEASE NOTE: this bill does not currently impact the real estate industry, but we are monitoring it for amendments and will update you if that changes.
• SB 1640 – Companion bill to HB 27.
Permit fees
• SB 142 - Requiring the governing bodies of counties and municipalities to post their permit and inspection fee schedules and building permit and inspection utilization reports on their websites; requiring certain governing bodies of local governments to create a building permit and inspection utilization report containing certain information and to post such report on their websites by a specified date, etc.
• HB 127 – Companion bill to SB 142.
All of the bills that the Public Policy Office is tracking can be found on our Legislative Tracker.




The attached two letters signed by the leadership of our Realtor boards across the state were sent to Senators Nelson and Rubio to lend our strong support for this year’s Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) package, S. 2800, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. This legislation includes funding authorization for critical pieces of the Central Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) which will help address the blue green algae blooms contaminating Florida’s waterways and beaches. Please also make your voice heard to support this effort to save our communities.

The National Association of REALTORS (NAR) will launch a national Call For Action (CFA) on June 18th targeting the United States Senate and House of Representatives and needs your help to drive messages to the Hill!


If Congress fails to take action to reauthorize the NFIP, it will expire by July 31, 2018.

*REALTOR Participation for this NAR CFA will count towards the NAR President's Cup.*


Text "NFIP" to 30644 to sign up for REALTOR Party Mobile Alerts and get more information on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
NAR is currently conducting a Call for Action with our Commercial members in support of HR 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act.
This bipartisan bill adds a crucial "notice-and-cure" provision to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), giving business owners an opportunity to fix an alleged violation before costly legal proceedings are initiated. Currently, attorneys around the country are taking advantage of the ADA's lack of a notice requirement, filing lawsuits indiscriminately against commercial property owners, often for minor, easily corrected infractions. The property owners must then either settle or use their time and money on legal proceedings - resources that could have instead gone to fixing the alleged violation.
HR 620 would restore the integrity of the ADA by curbing these abusive practices and incentivizing business owners to quickly correct ADA infractions. For more information on this bill, see NAR's issue summary on ADA Lawsuit Reform here.
To take action on this legislation click on the link below.


CALL FOR ACTION - February 9, 2018
Update on CFA: 
Thursday, February 15th, the House passed HR 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act, by a vote of 225-192. The "yea" votes included ten Democrats. NAR strongly supports this bill, and ahead of the vote engaged in an advocacy campaign to help its passage.
HR 620 is a bipartisan bill that adds a crucial "notice-and-cure" period to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), giving business owners accused of a violation the opportunity to fix it before a costly legal process begins. In recent years, a small group of attorneys have taken advantage of the ADA's lack of a notice requirement and filed lawsuits indiscriminately against commercial property owners under the ADA. Those business owners, who often in good faith believe that they are in compliance, then have the choice of paying a settlement or hiring an attorney and taking the time to deal with a costly legal proceeding.
Now that HR 620 has passed the House, we will move on to focus on companion legislation in the Senate.



RPAC Realtors® Political Action Committee

Commercial Legislation Breakout Group : Legislative Update: Week 6 - click link to read more 


 Florida Legislature 2018 Wins: Business Rent Tax - click to read more



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