"The Home Tax" Is Trying To Become Law Again

Florida Community Association Journal - March 2017
They’re Ba-ack! SB 398—Estoppel
by Alan Garfinkel
As you read this, our elected state representatives and senators will be trekking to Tallahassee to begin the 2017 Florida Legislative Session. Florida’s lawmakers are only in full session for 60 days, from March 7th through May 5th, 2017. Our elected lawmakers convene at the state capitol in Tallahassee to review and debate thousands of bills, and then send a few of them to the governor’s desk.For more than 25 years, I’ve kept my eye on many of those bills related to associations—and we’re watching several again this year.
One terrible bill is back again, rising from the dead like a legislative zombie: estoppel, also known as “the home tax” (House Bill 483 and Senate Bill 398). The SaintPetersBlog called last year’s bill “ a grotesque price-fixing bill.
You may already know what estoppel means, but let’s take a moment to review. An estoppel is a critical and legally binding document protecting potential homebuyers by disclosing liens, overdue fees, and other money owed to your association. In a standard real estate transaction, community associations are required to provide buyers and sellers with this financial and legally-binding information. If it’s wrong, the association may lose assessments—and worse, it could be responsible for substantial attorney’s fees, so it better be perfect!  


Estoppels are prepared by homeowners associations or their agents, and they cost associations time and money to prepare. The estoppel doesn’t simply appear by “just pushing a button” as lobbyists argue and some lawmakers believe—there are real costs, time, and liability to your association, and real consequences for information that is wrong or incomplete.You might think the estoppel is the major part of any real estate deal with all the legislative attention received in recent years, but it’s not. In fact, estoppel fees are dead last when compared to all other real estate charges—just one percent of most real estate transactions. Compare this to the whopping 78 percent that realtor commissions and title services make up.So, it makes you wonder, who exactly keeps pushing for these new laws shifting the burden from an individual buyer/seller to your association? You’re right to ask.
Since the housing recovery began, realtor and title company profits have re-bounded to record levels. Good for them. But they decided record profits of nearly 80 cents on the dollar aren’t enough, so title companies and realtors decided to go after miniscule— to them but not to associations— estoppel fees.
The 2017 estoppel bills will have the following consequences:
Loss of historic legal rights:Under past laws and the newly proposed laws, homeowner, townhome, and condominium associations will lose rights to collect money owed associations. For example, communities will lose the right to recover and collect unpaid fees and assessments if an estoppel is not provided by a date certain. Currently, associations have a right to lien in an effort to recover what is owed to the association. If one chooses to live in an association, one agrees to fairly share costs. A loss of these historic legal rights would lead to, in many cases, significantly higher fees and assessments being placed on those already paying and (sometimes) struggling to pay for someone else’s delinquent costs.
“Pay at closing”: Instead of paying for an estoppel when the service is rendered, like every other transaction, homeowner associations will be forced, by law, to pre-pay closing costs for real estate transactions where the association is not even a party! What happens if the sale doesn’t close, for any reason? You—the association, managers, and homeowners— must pay the costs of the estoppel’s preparation through higher fees and assessments. You wouldn’t hire someone to cut your lawn but only pay them if your home sells, and it is doubtful anyone would agree to cut your lawn on the basis of such an arbitrary contingency. Estoppel requests are the same exact thing.
Price-Fixing: Every single estoppel is different and unique, depending on what liens, fees, ownership (is it bank owned?), and other costs are associated with the home, condominium, and townhome. Preparing a legally binding estoppel takes time, precision, and money, but realtors and title companies want to arbitrarily cap (price-fix) what your association may charge (usually the seller) for preparing these estoppels. Guess what happens when the costs for preparing an estoppel exceeds the arbitrary cap? You guessed it. Associations, in many cases, have to assess higher fees on everyone else in the association to pay for these individual home sales. Let’s be clear: this new estoppel bill changes the purpose of a legal document designed to protect homeowners into a tax increase. These bad bills are simply a new “home tax.” It’s not right.
Homeowners:Homeowners could see increased association fees, in the range of 10–20 percent on the low end and more than 30 percent on the high end.Associations: Associations and their business partners will be forced to take valuable time away from important homeowner needs to prepare a much more complicated and time-consuming estoppel. Even worse, your association faces a likelihood they will not be reimbursed for legal and other fees to prepare the estoppel if a home does not sell.Managers: With capped fees, a shorter time to prepare estoppels, more required legal pitfalls, and unpaid estoppels due to failed closings, managers will find themselves with less time and less money to do more work with increased legal liability. Once the estoppel is prepared, you’re stuck.
Thanks to you, the work of groups like Community Association Network, Space Coast Communities Association, CEOMC, and excellent professional advocacy, we have successfully defeated the home tax in 2015 and 2016.  Now, however, the home tax is back for another bite at the apple in 2017. Senator Kathleen Passidomo has filed Senate Bill 398, a “greatest hit’s” list of all of the home tax’s aforementioned worst ideas. Rep. Byron Donalds has filed the identical House Bill 483.
Here’s the good news: despite the well-funded influence of powerful special interest groups like title companies and realtors, lawmakers still listen to their constituents, which is exactly why this legislation has thankfully been defeated the last two years. We will again need you to speak up loudly against the home tax.Fortunately, making your voice heard couldn’t be easier and takes virtually no time. Here’s exactly how to take action:
• Visit www.SmashTheHomeTax.com to personally e-mail your state representative and state senator. Enter your home address or click the “locate me” button.• Write a short, personal note asking them to oppose SB 398 and HB 483.
To get you started consider including a few of these phrases:
• Please don’t raise my association fees. Vote No on the home tax and SB 398 and HB 483.
• Please do not support the home tax. Vote No on SB 398 and HB 483.
• Our community association cannot afford SB 398 and HB 483, the home tax.
• Support your homeowners. Oppose SB 398 and HB 483, the home tax.• Hit send. You’re done!
Defeating the home tax for a third straight year will take everyone—homeowners, association board members, and managers— speaking with one powerful voice. Special interests have spent millions to line their pockets with more profits at our expense. But together, we will estoppel them in their tracks, once again.
ALAN GARFINKEL, ESQ., GARFINKEL WHYNOT  Alan Garfinkel has counseled homeowners, townhomes, condominium associations, and individuals throughout Florida from his same Central Florida office for 25 years. He continues to passionately work for those living and working for community associations. Garfinkel received the highest ethics rating (AV) for more than a dozen consecutive years. Attorney peer review ratings provide objective grades based on confidential evaluations by attorneys and judges measuring a lawyer’s ethical standards and legal ability. Garfinkel Whynot only represents community associations not big corporations that can develop conflicts with communities like developers, banks, and insurance companies. For more information, visit www.MyGWLaw.com.  

Visit C&S Tomorrow at CAI CA Day

Please come visit C&S at booth 105 tomorrow at the CAI Community Association Day at the Bradenton Convention Center. We are set up! For anyone noticing the money tree is not yet in the picture, it will be tomorrow and you may be this year's money tree winner. See you tomorrow!


Paws in Motion Walk-A-Thon This Saturday


C&S is a sponsor and will have a table at the event so please come visit with us while we root for Maggie who is in her first Paws in Motion Walk-A-Thon. If you would like to donate to "The Magster", here is her donate page: https://www.firstgiving.com/team/344872

Happy President's Day 2017


Phone and Data Lines Are Down (Update)


UPDATE:  At approximately 5:00 PM email services are now working.  No word what time tomorrow the phones will be working.  


The main switch to the business park where the main C&S office is located has failed.  The phone company has been working on the problem but must wait for parts to arrive tomorrow at the earliest.  Presently the C&S Bradenton office does not have phone service and all four C&S offices do not have email service.  The auto attendant for the phone system which is located in south Florida can take messages when you enter the extension for the C&S representative you wish to speak to and the representative can then return the call on their personal phone.      

If you have emailed C&S beginning at 1:04 PM this afternoon, we have not only not received your email, we do not yet know when and if we will once the phone company replaces and repairs the main switch.

We are sorry for the inconvenience and will keep you posted on our website and Facebook.


CAI CA Day is March 9th, Come Visit C&S


Happy New Year!


Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanza, and Happy Holidays to everyone from C&S!


2017 C&S Holiday Schedule


C&S follows the official Manatee/Sarasota County holiday schedule.  

C&S Again Manatee Co. Humane Society Sponsor


C&S is very proud to again be a sponsor of the

Humane Society of Manatee County for the 2016-2017 year.


2017 Board Member Forum Coming in January


Happy Thanksgiving from C&S


Association President's Summit is November 10th


Please Vote This Year's Readers Choice Awards

Voting ends December 15th. If you have not already voted for C&S in the Readers Choice Awards, there is still time. Just click here and then click on C&S Management from the list.  The names are in alphabetical order and we are the first "C" listed.    Please vote today and thank you for all your support!



Happy Labor Day 2016


Hermine Continues To Track North

Tropical Storm Hermine continues to track north of our area of the state.  Although all C&S clients including our St. Petersburg clients, are no longer under any hurricane or tropical storm watch or warning, C&S continues to monitor Hermine closely.   Very heavy rains are still expected this afternoon and this evening.  


Weather Preparation Letter From DBPR Secretary

Dear Friends,

During the summer months, lightning, floods, tornadoes and wildfires are just a few of the dangers that distress our beautiful state. I want to remind businesses, licensees and consumers of the importance of preparing for Florida’s weather. Having an emergency evacuation route planned and stocking up on supplies are just a couple of ways to prepare for this severe weather season. It’s important to remember that even after doing all of the necessary preparations, Mother Nature can still wreak havoc on your home or business.

If you do find yourself on the short end of a severe storm, be sure to hire only licensed professionals to make repairs to your home or business. Unfortunately, it’s common for unlicensed individuals to take advantage of homeowners following a natural disaster. Our goal at DBPR is to make it easier for you to make good decisions for your family when selecting a construction contractor to make repairs to your damaged home or business.

The best way to avoid falling victim to unlicensed activity scams is to always verify state professional licenses with DBPR. Consumers can verify professional licenses by name or license number online at www.myfloridalicense.com, by calling the DBPR Customer Contact Center at (850) 487-1395 or by downloading the free DBPR Mobile app through the iTunes or Google Play app stores. Complaints of unlicensed activity can be reported to the department through the Unlicensed Activity Hotline by calling (866) 532-1440.

The clean-up process after a storm hits can be overwhelming. Protecting your home or business from unlicensed individuals is one of the best ways to provide an extra layer of security for you and your family following a natural disaster.


Ken Lawson�s Signature

Ken Lawson

Department of Business and
Professional Regulation
1940 North Monroe Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
Customer Contact Center:


C&S Presents Board Certification Class August 3rd

C&S is presenting a Board Certification class for board members of our client communities on August 3, at 6:30 PM at the Comfort Inn located at the intersection of I-75 and Highway 64.  New board members are required by Statute to become certified within 90 days of being elected or appointed to the board.  

Class materials will be provided and seating is limited so we must know in advance that you wish to attend.  Please call Janet Fernandez at 941-758-9454 ext. 121.  C&S provides the Board Certification Class several times a year for our clients.   Our annual Board Member Forum is in February of each year and is open to all communities.  There is no charge to attend any C&S event. 

19.6% Workers Comp Rate Increase Coming

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) announced July 1 that the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) filed an amended rate filing to address a third legal change affecting Florida’s workers’ compensation system. This amended filing increases NCCI’s initial proposed combined average rate increase from 17.1 percent to 19.6 percent.

Individual projected rate impacts for all three recent legal changes include the following:

* A 2.2 percent projected rate increase for the June 9th Florida Supreme Court decision in the case of Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg, in which the Florida Supreme Court found the 104-week statutory limitation on temporary total disability benefits in Section 440.15(2)(a), Florida Statutes, unconstitutional because it causes a statutory gap in benefits in violation of an injured worker’s constitutional right of access to courts. The Supreme Court reinstated the 260-week limitation in effect prior to the 1994 law change.

* A 15 percent projected rate increase for the April 28th Florida Supreme Court decision in the case of Castellanos v. Next Door Company, which  found the mandatory attorney fee schedule in Section 440.34, Florida Statutes, unconstitutional as a violation of due process under both the Florida and United States Constitutions.

* A 1.8 percent projected rate increase related to updates within the Florida Workers’ Compensation Health Care Provider Reimbursement Manual (HCPR Manual) per Senate Bill 1402. The manual became effective on July 1, 2016.

NCCI is proposing an effective date of October 1, 2016 for new and renewal workers’ compensation policies and that the 19.6 percent rate increase apply to all workers’ compensation policies in effect as of October 1, 2016 on a pro-rata basis for the remainder of each policy’s term.

OIR has scheduled a public rate hearing for August 16, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. to give NCCI an opportunity to discuss the filing and interested parties and other stakeholders the ability to provide testimony or comments. The hearing will be held in the Jim King Committee Room, 401 Senate Office Building, 404 South Monroe Street, Tallahassee, Florida. A media advisory with more details will be released at a later date.

NCCI is a licensed rating organization authorized to make rate filings on behalf of workers’ compensation insurance companies in Florida. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has primary responsibility for regulation, compliance and enforcement of statutes related to the business of insurance and the monitoring of industry markets.

Insurance Journal, July 5, 2016

Happy Fourth of July!



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