Florida Senate - 2022                                    SB 1296
       By Senator Burgess
       20-01608-22                                           20221296__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to the homeowners’ association
    3         ombudsman; creating s. 720.319, F.S.; creating the
    4         Office of the Homeowners’ Association Ombudsman within
    5         the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and
    6         Mobile Homes of the Department of Business and
    7         Professional Regulation; providing for funding of the
    8         office; directing the Governor to appoint an
    9         ombudsman; requiring the ombudsman to be an attorney
   10         admitted to practice before the Florida Supreme Court;
   11         prohibiting the ombudsman and officers and full-time
   12         employees of the office from holding certain
   13         positions, engaging in certain activities, or
   14         receiving certain remuneration; providing for the
   15         principal location of the ombudsman’s office;
   16         authorizing the ombudsman to establish branch offices
   17         under specified circumstances; specifying the powers
   18         and duties of the ombudsman; providing for the
   19         administration of an election monitoring process;
   20         authorizing rulemaking for the division; providing
   21         that a specified rule governs the administration of
   22         election monitoring under certain circumstances;
   23         providing an effective date.
   25  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   27         Section 1. Section 720.319, Florida Statutes, is created to
   28  read:
   29         720.319Homeowners’ association ombudsman.—
   31         (a)There is created an Office of the Homeowners’
   32  Association Ombudsman, to be located for administrative purposes
   33  within the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and
   34  Mobile Homes. The functions of the office shall be funded by the
   35  Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes
   36  Trust Fund. The ombudsman shall be a bureau chief of the
   37  division, and the office shall be set within the division in the
   38  same manner as any other bureau is staffed and funded.
   39         (b)The Governor shall appoint the ombudsman. The ombudsman
   40  must be an attorney admitted to practice before the Florida
   41  Supreme Court and shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor.
   42  The ombudsman, an officer, or a full-time employee of the
   43  ombudsman’s office may not actively engage in any other business
   44  or profession that directly or indirectly relates to or
   45  conflicts with his or her work in the ombudsman’s office; serve
   46  as the representative of any political party, executive
   47  committee, or other governing body of a political party; serve
   48  as an executive, officer, or employee of a political party;
   49  receive remuneration for activities on behalf of any candidate
   50  for public office; or engage in soliciting votes or other
   51  activities on behalf of a candidate for public office. The
   52  ombudsman, an officer, or a full-time employee of the
   53  ombudsman’s office may not become a candidate for election to
   54  public office unless he or she first resigns from his or her
   55  office or employment.
   56         (c)The ombudsman shall maintain his or her principal
   57  office at a place convenient to the offices of the division
   58  which will enable the ombudsman to expeditiously carry out the
   59  duties and functions of his or her office. The ombudsman may
   60  establish branch offices elsewhere in the state upon the
   61  concurrence of the Governor.
   62         (2)POWERS AND DUTIES.—The ombudsman has the powers
   63  necessary to carry out the duties of his or her office,
   64  including, but not limited to:
   65         (a)Having access to and use of all files and records of
   66  the division.
   67         (b)Employing professional and clerical staff as necessary
   68  for the efficient operation of the office.
   69         (c)Preparing and issuing reports and recommendations to
   70  the Governor, the department, the division, the President of the
   71  Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on any
   72  matter or subject within the jurisdiction of the division. The
   73  ombudsman shall make recommendations he or she deems appropriate
   74  for legislation relative to division procedures, rules,
   75  jurisdiction, personnel, and functions.
   76         (d)Acting as liaison between the division, parcel owners,
   77  boards of directors, board members, community association
   78  managers, and other affected parties. The ombudsman shall
   79  develop policies and procedures to assist parcel owners, boards
   80  of directors, board members, community association managers, and
   81  other affected parties to understand their rights and
   82  responsibilities as set forth in this chapter and the governing
   83  documents of their respective associations. The ombudsman shall
   84  coordinate and assist in the preparation and adoption of
   85  educational and reference material, and shall endeavor to
   86  coordinate with private or volunteer providers of these
   87  services, so that the availability of these resources is made
   88  known to the largest possible audience.
   89         (e)Monitoring and reviewing procedures and disputes
   90  concerning elections or meetings, including, but not limited to,
   91  recommending that the division pursue enforcement action in any
   92  manner if there is reasonable cause to believe that election
   93  misconduct has occurred and reviewing secret ballots cast at a
   94  vote of the association.
   95         (f)Making recommendations to the division for changes in
   96  rules and procedures for the filing, investigation, and
   97  resolution of complaints filed by parcel owners, associations,
   98  or managers.
   99         (g)Providing resources to assist members of boards of
  100  directors and officers of associations to carry out their powers
  101  and duties consistent with this chapter, division rules, and the
  102  governing documents of their associations.
  103         (h)Encouraging and facilitating voluntary meetings between
  104  parcel owners, boards of directors, board members, community
  105  association managers, and other affected parties when the
  106  meetings may assist in resolving a dispute within a homeowners’
  107  association before a person submits a dispute for a formal or
  108  administrative remedy. It is the intent of the Legislature that
  109  the ombudsman act as a neutral resource for both the rights and
  110  responsibilities of parcel owners, associations, and board
  111  members.
  112         (i)Assisting with the resolution of disputes between
  113  parcel owners and the association or between parcel owners when
  114  the dispute is not within the jurisdiction of the division to
  115  resolve.
  116         (j)Appointing an election monitor.
  117         (3)ELECTION MONITORING.—
  118         (a)Fifteen percent of the total voting interests in a
  119  homeowners’ association, or six parcel owners, whichever is
  120  greater, may petition the ombudsman to appoint an election
  121  monitor to attend the annual meeting of the parcel owners and
  122  conduct the election of directors.
  123         (b)The ombudsman shall appoint a division employee, a
  124  person who specializes in homeowners’ association election
  125  monitoring, or an attorney licensed to practice in the state as
  126  the election monitor.
  127         (c)All costs associated with the election monitoring
  128  process shall be paid by the association.
  129         (d)The division may adopt a rule establishing procedures
  130  for the appointment of election monitors and the scope and
  131  extent of the monitor’s role in the election process. If the
  132  division does not adopt a rule, then, to the extent applicable,
  133  rule 61B-23.00215, Florida Administrative Code, shall govern the
  134  administration of election monitoring.
  135         Section 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2022.