MANATEE -- A bill awaiting the signature of Gov. Rick Scott could force homeowner associations to pay millions of dollars in repair costs for common-area infrastructure in their communities.
House Bill 1013, sponsored by Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, states that homeowners are not entitled to an "implied warranty" for amenities outside their homes.
Under the bill, homebuyers and HOAs could not sue developers or contractors for shoddy construction on common areas such as roadways, sidewalks, storm water areas and utilities.
Instead, the homeowners would foot the bill.
Senate Bill 1196, the companion bill of HB1013, was sponsored by Sen. Mike Ben
Bennett did not return phone calls Tuesday seeking comment.
If signed by Scott or allowed to become law, the changes will go into effect July 1.
Artiles' bill stems from a suit by a Central Florida homeowners' association against a developer for problematic drainage pipes and roads.
Homeowners are seeking compensation for more than $600,000 in repairs. The case, before the Florida Supreme Court, could affect homeowners, developers and neighborhood associations.
"It's the most self-serving piece of legislature ever promoted," said Doug Wilson, president of Lakewood Ranch's Advanced Management, a property management company that handles 140 community associations and 28,000 units in the Manatee-Sarasota area.
Wilson, a board member of the Community Associations Institute West Florida chapter, has been a state Legislature alliance representative for 18 years. CAI is an international organization that provides education and resources to community associations.
Wilson said the bill would eliminate a homeowner's rights while eliminating all responsibility for those responsible for development construction.
"It's like a 'get home free' card for contractors," he said. "The normal responsibility to stand behind their work is eliminated."
Wilson said repairs to common areas could cost homeowners thousands, perhaps millions of dollars.
Becker & Poliakoff attorney Yeline Goin, executive director of CALL, the firm's Community Association Leadership Lobby, which represents more than 4,000 community associations statewide, said the bill will impact new homes and any community less than 10 years old.
A common law warranty case is currently under review by the Florida Supreme Court, Goin said, which involves an Orange County homeowners association suing a developer.
"Why pass the burden to homeowners that had nothing to do with the construction?" Goin said.
Wilson and Goin said members of the CAI and CALL have expressed their concern to Scott in the form of letters and thousands of emails. Goin said CALL actively lobbied against passage of the bills.
"If you take away the HOA's right to sue, the people who have to pay are the people who bought into the home," she said.
A community like Lakewood Ranch, in which the community development districts maintain the common areas, would not be affected by the bill.
-- Material from the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau was also used in this story.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Follow him on Twitter @_1NickWilliams.