2023 Legislative Session Delivers Historic Wins for Realtors
The Realtor voice echoed loudly through the halls of Florida’s government this year, delivering more than $2 billion for members’ priorities and securing historic legislative wins for Realtors, property owners and Florida’s economy.
Leading the way on this success is ground-breaking housing legislation that will increase homeownership opportunities and provide more affordable rental housing throughout the state. Realtor advocacy efforts also led to numerous other new laws that ban rent control policies in Florida, maintain balance within the landlord and tenant relationship, further reduce the Business Rent Tax, shield appraisers and real estate brokerages from frivolous lawsuits, increase property insurer accountability and much more.
These homeownership-related wins are in addition to numerous other laws passed by lawmakers that impact Realtors and their businesses during the 60-day session that ended a short time ago. The newly passed bills now go to Gov. Ron DeSantis and become law once he signs them.
2023 Realtor priority wins
Historic housing legislation: Senate Bill 102, the “Live Local Act,” is a comprehensive affordable housing bill and major priority for Florida Realtors®. Highlights of the bill include the largest investment in housing ever in state history ($811 million), $1.5 billion over 10 years to build new affordable rental units, expansion of the Hometown Heroes Housing Program’s eligibility requirements and max loan amount, new tax exemptions and credits to incentivize private investment in affordable rental housing, and easing of local restrictions on where affordable housing can be built. Effective July 1, 2023.
Statewide ban on rent control: In response to Orange County’s efforts to pass an unlawful rent control ordinance during the November 2022 election, Florida Realtors® worked with lawmakers to enact a statewide ban on rent control. Those efforts were ultimately successful in Senate Bill 102. Stopping local governments from enacting harmful rent control policies will allow the innovative housing strategies in Senate Bill 102 to increase housing inventory around the state and help drive rent prices down. Effective July 1, 2023.
Protecting landlord-tenant rights: In response to high rent prices, local governments in some areas of the state have reacted by passing burdensome, tenant-related ordinances that negatively impact private property rights and local housing markets. House Bill 1417 corrects this issue by preempting regulation of residential tenancies to the state. Effective July 1, 2023.
Further reduction of the Business Rent Tax (BRT): Businesses throughout Florida will save approximately $260 million due to a 1% reduction of the BRT from 5.5% to 4.5% included in House Bill 7063. This 1% cut provides businesses who rent their space some additional tax relief while they wait for the planned reduction of the BRT to 2% that is currently set to occur in August 2024. Effective December 1, 2023.
Over $1.1 billion for the Everglades and water quality: The Florida Legislature continues to allocate significant funding for projects that improve Florida’s water quality. The 2023-2024 fiscal year budget (Senate Bill 2500) includes money for Everglades Restoration ($574 million), Indian River Lagoon ($100 million), Caloosahatchee River Watershed ($25 million), springs restoration ($50 million), beaches ($206 million), Biscayne Bay ($20 million), the Wastewater Grant Program ($200 million) and the Resilient Florida Grant Program ($320 million). Effective: July 1, 2023.
Protecting real estate appraisers from frivolous lawsuits: Florida’s real estate appraisers are being sued for appraisals they performed more than a decade ago. House Bill 213 prevents these frivolous lawsuits by establishing a four-year statutory limitation on the time in which a civil cause of action can be brought against a real estate appraiser, or appraisal management company, following the date the appraisal was performed. Effective July 1, 2023.
Giving businesses tools to fight harmful regulations: Local governments routinely pass ordinances that directly and indirectly impact local businesses. Many of these local ordinances often have unintended consequences felt throughout the business community. Senate Bill 170 would make local governments show the impact of a new ordinance on businesses and suspend enforcement of an ordinance being challenged in court. Effective October 1, 2023.
Helping real estate brokerages avoid unnecessary lawsuits: Some real estate brokerages and businesses are being sued for legitimate telephonic marketing practices due to an unclear provision of law passed in 2021. House Bill 761 amends these provisions of the Florida Telephone Solicitation Act (FTSA) to clarify definitions and written consent requirements to put an end to these frivolous lawsuits. Effective upon becoming law.
Making condominiums safer and more transparent: During a special legislative session in 2022, a new law was passed to increase the safety of condominium buildings and transparency of community associations. Senate Bill 154 clarifies several measures contained in the previous reforms, such as who can perform milestone inspections, flood insurance requirements, the specific items subject to a structural integrity reserve study, and the resale disclosure requirements associated with milestone inspections, reserve studies and newly added turnover inspection reports. Effective upon becoming law.
Increasing property insurer accountability: Senate Bill 7052 contains a number of provisions intended to increase consumer protection and insurer accountability in Florida. Provisions include restrictions on insurers canceling a policy with an open claim, increased fines against insurers, limits on insurer executive compensation under certain circumstances, and significant guardrails for insurers who amend insurance adjuster reports. Effective July 1, 2023.
Expanding My Safe Florida home-hardening program: House Bill 881 expands eligibility requirements of the home hardening grant program known as My Safe Florida Home to include homes with an insured value up to $700,000 located anywhere in Florida. Previously, a home’s insured value was capped at $500,000 and it had to be in the state’s wind-borne debris region. Additionally, the legislature appropriated another $100 million to extend this program and, as a result, more Floridians will be able to protect their homes against storms and reduce insurance premiums. Effective July 1, 2023.
Additional 2023 Realtor wins
Shielding Realtors from new fraud prevention requirements: House Bill 1419 requires the Lee County Clerk of Court to implement the Title Fraud Prevention Through Identity Verification Pilot Program. An earlier version of the bill required real estate licensees to mail up to two fraud prevention notices to the potential seller of a listed property. Florida Realtors® advocacy efforts convinced legislators that this expensive and time-consuming burden would not have reduced real property fraud, and the notice requirements imposed upon Realtors – and title agents – were removed before final passage. Effective July 1, 2023.
Safeguarding legitimate Realtor listing practices: Senate Bill 770 was created to stop certain very long-term listing agreements that were causing consumer harm and negatively impacting real estate transactions. However, the original version of the bill was overly broad and would have subjected Realtors to prosecution if they engaged in other long-standing listing practices currently permitted under Florida Statutes. The bill was later amended to ensure these legitimate real estate practices are not prevented by this new law. Effective July 1, 2023.
Other bills of interest
Fees in lieu of security deposits: House Bill 133 provides the option for a landlord to offer a tenant to pay a fee in lieu of a security deposit. This type of product is typically for a prospective tenant who cannot pay a security deposit and is currently an allowed business practice. The bills provide conditions by which a landlord must follow in order to offer such a payment option. Effective July 1, 2023.
Termination of agreements by a service member: Senate Bill 574 provides clarity about the type of housing eligible for lease termination if a service member receives military orders. It specifies that “government quarters” means any military housing option available to a service member, including privatized military housing that is owned, operated or managed by a private sector company. Effective July 1, 2023.
Licensing fee relief: House Bill 1091 instructs the Florida Department of Professional and Business Regulation (DBPR) to waive 50% of the initial licensing fee and 50% of a licensee’s renewal fee for the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 fiscal years. Real estate licensees and appraisers are included in this waiver. Effective July 1, 2023.
HOA transparency and accountability: House Bill 919 contains measures that help improve the transparency and accountability of homeowners associations. Specifically, the bill creates an HOA Bill of Rights, provisions to reign in kickbacks, and fraudulent voting activities and conflicts of interest. It also allows for the removal of officers and directors under certain circumstances, and prevents fines from becoming a lien against homeowners. Effective October 1, 2023.
Environmental protection: House Bill 1379 is a comprehensive water quality bill that focuses on areas of the state with a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP), reasonable assurance plan or other pollution reduction plan. Specifically, the bill increases standards for wastewater utilities and prohibits the installation of conventional septic systems by requiring the installation of advanced nutrient reducing systems when a sewer connection is not possible. The bill also creates the Indian River Lagoon Protection Program, which focuses on the critical issue facing water quality in that area of the state. Current septic systems are slated for upgrades or connection to a sewer by 2030, and the program will receive $100 million to start those efforts. Effective July 1, 2023.
Forced placed insurance coverage: House Bill 793 establishes a legal framework for the writing of forced-placed insurance coverage (also known as collateral protection insurance or CPI) on real property in Florida. The bill specifies the coverage and premium must be based on a home’s “last known” replacement cost, maintains the separation between lenders or servicers and insurers or insurance agents, and minimizes the possibilities of unfair competition practices in the sale, placement, or solicitation and negotiation of CPI. Effective July 1, 2023.
Disposal of property: Senate Bill 678 allows the Florida Department of Transportation to transfer property to a governmental entity without consideration if the property will be used for affordable housing. This is notably the first time that FDOT has gotten involved in the affordable housing space. Effective July 1, 2023.
Department of Business and Professional Regulation: House Bill 869 modernizes communications between the Division of Hotels and Restaurants (H&R) and public lodging establishment licensees. The bill requires public lodging establishment licensees to create and maintain an online account and provide an email address to function as the primary contact for all communication from H&R. Each vacation rental or timeshare project must also submit any change in the street or unit address, or number of houses or units included under the license within 30 days of the change through the online system. Effective July 1, 2023.
Natural Emergencies: Senate Bill 250 provides that cities and counties must allow homeowners to live in a temporary shelter (RV, trailer, or similar structure) on their property for up to 36 months when their home has been damaged or destroyed by a natural emergency, provided they're making a good faith effort to repair or build the home, and the temporary shelter is connected to water and electric utilities. A natural emergency includes hurricanes, storms, floods, severe wave action, droughts, and earthquakes. Effective July 1, 2023.
Interests of foreign countries: Senate Bill 264 prohibits foreign principals from owning or acquiring agricultural land in the state; prohibits foreign principals from owning or acquiring any interest in real property within 10 miles of any military installation or critical infrastructure in the state; prohibits China, Chinese Communist Party or other Chinese political party officials or members, Chinese business organizations, and persons domiciled in China, but who are not citizens or lawful permanent residents of the U.S. from purchasing or acquiring any interest in real property in the state; and provides limited exceptions from the ownership restrictions for the purchase of one residential property that is not on or within 5 miles of any military installation in the state. The Department of Economic Opportunity, the Florida Real Estate Commission and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are required to implement specific portions of the bill. Due to the complexity of this new law, it is recommended that Realtors advise buyers and sellers to consult an attorney regarding how the law may impact their legal rights and responsibilities. Effective July 1, 2023.
Bills that did not pass
While numerous real estate-related bills and budget items passed this year, some did not cross the finish line.
Realtor license plate: House Bill 675 and Senate Bill 1254 would have created a specialty Realtor license plate that would give members of the profession and other Floridians a visible way to demonstrate their passion for the real estate industry. Proceeds of license plate sales would have gone to programs that support homeownership in Florida.
Universal-recognition occupational licensing act: Senate Bill 1364 and House Bill 1333 would have encouraged license portability in the United States by requiring Florida licensing boards – including FREC and FREAB – to issue a license to eligible out-of-state applicants.
Vacation Rentals: Senate Bill 714 and House Bill 833 would have revised the regulation of vacation rentals. As filed, the bills were identical and preempted the licensing of vacation rentals to the state and in turn allowed local governments to create a registration program. The bills also included severe penalties for violations of local ordinances by a vacation rental. SB 714 was amended throughout the committee process and gave local governments more tools to eliminate vacation rentals through overly burdensome regulations. HB 833 was also amended but it was much more favorable to property owners and the two chambers were unable to come to an agreement on the issue. It is likely the legislature will take this issue up again in the 2024 session.
Disclosures of ad valorem taxes: Senate Bill 974 and House Bill 1097 would require residential online listing platforms to include an ad valorem tax estimator for online listings of residential property and link to the respective county property appraiser office’s website for a more detailed property tax estimate.
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE): Senate Bill 950 and House Bill 669 would have provided numerous additional consumer protections to homeowners considering participation in a PACE financing agreement to fund improvements related to energy conservation and efficiency. The bill also expanded the list of “qualifying improvements” to include onsite sewage treatment and disposal system improvements, flood and water damage mitigation, and resiliency improvements.
Public lodging and food service establishments: House Bill 1399 and Senate Bill 1422 would have required a vacation rental owner to prove the unit was inspected and complied with their county, municipal, building, zoning, and fire safety codes, along with providing a homeowners insurance policy that shows the unit is allowed to be used as a vacation rental, and a signed affidavit from the chief executive of their local government confirming that operating a vacation rental at that address is allowed.
Agricultural lands: Senate Bill 1184 and House Bill 1343 would allow the construction or installation of housing for agricultural employees as an authorized use of land zoned for agricultural use, among other provisions.
Homestead exemptions for persons 65 and older: Senate Bill 124 and House Bill 161 would have increased the just value limit of real estate eligible for the homestead tax exemption that may be adopted by counties or municipalities for certain persons age 65 and older.
Ad valorem tax exemption for nonprofit homes for the aged: House Bill 127 and Senate Bill 566 would have revised ownership entities for certain nonprofit homes qualifying for exemption from ad valorem taxation to include certain limited partnerships.
Property tax administration: Senate Bill 474 and House Bill 1131 would have revised the timeframe under which certain appeals of value adjustment board decisions must be filed by a property appraiser under certain circumstances and specifies when erroneous assessments of homestead property must be corrected, among other things.
Homestead tax exemptions: House Bill 1599 and Senate Bill 1716 would have reduced the interest rate and penalty for property owners who unlawfully received a homestead exemption and would have revised criteria under which rental of homestead property is considered abandonment if rented to a third-party.