Why has July 1st become an important date for condominium associations? It’s the date legislative changes to Florida’s Condominium Act typically take effect. This year, no significant statutory amendments were passed, so instead of preparing for statutory changes, condominium associations can start planning Fourth of July celebrations. Well, not every condominium association.

If your association requires prospective tenants to complete rental applications, there is a new law that imposes specific processing requirements for applications submitted by servicemembers. These new requirements, which were added to Florida’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, become effective, wait for it…July 1, 2016.

Under the new law, if condominium associations require prospective tenants of condominium units to complete rental applications before being allowed to move in, the association:

  • MUST complete its processing of a servicemember’s rental application within 7 days after submission; and
  • MUST, within that 7-day period, notify the servicemember in writing whether the application was approved or denied, and, if denied, the reason for denial.

If a servicemember’s rental application is not denied within the 7-day period, the condominium association must allow the unit owner to lease and the landlord must lease the rental unit to the servicemember if all other terms of the application and lease are complied with. These new requirements cannot be waived or modified under any circumstances, so condominium associations must comply.

Compliance means knowing when an applicant is a servicemember. A servicemember is any person serving in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard who is on active duty or state active duty. Members of the Florida National Guard and United States Reserve Forces are also servicemembers.

Active duty means full-time duty in active military service of the United States, including federal duty such as full-time and annual training. Active military personnel who are absent from duty as a result of illness, being wounded, being on leave or other lawful cause are also considered to be on active duty. Full-time duty in the National Guard is not considered active duty.

State active duty means full-time duty in active military service of the State of Florida when ordered by the Governor or Adjutant General for various reasons, such as preserving the public peace, enhancing security, responding to terrorist threats, enforcing the law and responding to emergencies. State active duty includes the duties of officers or enlisted personnel who are ordered by the Governor to perform various functions, such as recruiting, inspecting troops and sitting on general or special courts-martial.

If your association always processesevery rental application within 7 days, the new law shouldn’t pose any problems. But, associations that always or even sometimes need more than 7 days (you know who you are) must implement processes to ensure compliance with the new law. For example:

  • Every rental application must be reviewed immediately upon submission to determine whether the applicant is a servicemember. Non-servicemember applications can be processed like before, but servicemember applications must be placed on top of the pile and made a priority.
  • Strict processing standards must replace relaxed or informal procedures. Applications cannot wait until the next board meeting or be casually left in someone’s inbox.
  • Rental applications should specifically and conspicuously ask whether the applicant is a servicemember—yes or no. Resolve any uncertainties or ambiguities.
  • Those who physically provide or receive rental applications on behalf of the association should confirm the applicant’s servicemember status and notify the board.
  • If rental applications can be submitted online, there must be a way to immediately review every application to identify those submitted by servicemembers.

Complying with the new law may be inconvenient, but it requires far less than commitment and sacrifice made by those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Making things a bit easier for servicemembers isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the law.

Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk is available to discuss ways to identify, manage and insure the risks facing condominium associations and their board members.

Clients of Setnor Byer’s Condominium Program also enjoy access to various risk management services, such as Setnor Byer’s Risk Management Group and Unit Owners’ Report Line, as well as our affiliate’s Condominium Board Member Education Certification, which has been approved by the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes.

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