Reserve funds are a key financial asset for your association, and provide a valuable source of funding for costly repairs, replacements and emergencies. Despite the importance of this resource, many Condominium Owners Associations are unsure as to what is needed to fund their reserve. Specifically, this blog will address two (2) concerns:
(1) What is required to fund the reserve account; and
(2) Requirements imposed by the newly passed Senate Bill 4D condominium inspection law as well as recent amendments to a significant portion of Florida Statutes Section 718, and how these will impact the operation of Condominium Owners Associations here in Florida.
What Is Reserve Funding? What Is Required to Fund the Reserve Account?
Reserve Funding is essentially a savings account for your association used to save money for costly repairs and replacements of community property. Think of it as the Association’s piggy bank or rainy-day jar. Reserve funds are typically spoken of as being held in one of two ways: pooled reserves and non-pooled reserves. Pooled reserves are funding for multiple assets (roofs, sidewalks, etc.) that are combined into one general account from which all expenses are paid. Non-pooled reserves are when each asset has its own account dedicated to its repairs and upkeep. Funds cannot be transferred under a non-pooled reserve method. Reserve accounts are often found to be underfunded significantly for the amount that could and should be done to keep the association’s community property in good working order.
As of December 31, 2024, for items required to be included in a Structural Integrity Reserve Study (more on this briefly), an Association may no longer use those itemized reserve funds (or any interest accruing thereon) for other purposes, and an Association may only use those itemized reserve funds for their designated purposes. Essentially, the use of pooled reserve funds has been eliminated by the amendment of Florida Statutes Section 718.
Recently, the Florida Senate rewrote and amended a significant portion of Florida Statutes Section 718, including the portion regarding reserve funding or a lack thereof. Florida Statutes Section 718.112(2)(f)(2a) reads:
“The members of a unit-owner-controlled association may determine, by a majority vote at a duly called meeting of the association, to provide no reserves or less reserves than required by this subsection. Effective December 31, 2024, the members of a unit-owner-controlled association may not determine to provide no reserves or less reserves than required by this subsection for items listed in paragraph (g).”
Paragraph g of the Florida Statutes Section 718.112(2) as noted by the above section states: An association must have a structural integrity reserve study completed at least every 10 years after the condominium’s creation for each building on the condominium property that at a minimum, inspects the roofs, load-bearing walls or other primary structural members, floors, foundations, fireproofing and fire protection systems, plumbing, electrical systems, waterproofing and exterior painting, and windows.
So how may an Association Board go about changing their reserve funding? The board must present a proposed budget to the community assuming full reserve funding. For instance, let’s say an association seeks to reduce or waive their current reserve funding. The association cannot hold a vote to waive or reduce reserve funding until after a proposed budget with full reserve funding has been provided to the membership. If the board would like to put a vote on the table to reduce or waive reserves funding, then they should provide (along with the proposed budget which must be distributed 14 days prior to the budget meeting): (1) a second budget with waived or reduced reserves and (2) a limited proxy to be filled out by unit owners specifically requesting the membership to vote on the second budget. The proxy must include the following wording per Florida Statutes:
“WAIVING OF RESERVES, IN WHOLE OR IN PART, OR ALLOWING ALTERNATIVE USES OF EXISTING RESERVES MAY RESULT IN UNIT OWNER LIABILITY FOR PAYMENT OF UNANTICIPATED SPECIAL ASSESSMENTS REGARDING THOSE ITEMS.”
To successfully reduce or waive reserve funding, a majority of the membership (i.e., 51% of unit owners) must vote in favor of the reduction/ waiver. If by the time of the budget meeting arrives the association has received insufficient votes, the board may delay approving the budget to attempt to collect more votes. If a majority vote is not obtained, the board must approve the budget with full reserve funding. If a majority vote is obtained, the board must proceed with the waived or reduced reserve funding. It is important to note that any vote to waive or reduce reserves is only effective for one annual budget. Therefore, the vote must be obtained for every year the board would prefer not to fully fund reserves.
Senate Bill 4D
Senate Bill 4D was passed as a response to the tragedy in Surfside, Florida that occurred last year when a condominium building collapsed after a long history of maintenance problems and shoddy construction techniques. Senate Bill 4D was effective as of 05.26.2022 and entered fully into Chapter 2022-269 as of 06.29.2022, and the general bill reads as follows:
“Building Safety; Providing that the entire roofing system or roof section of certain existing buildings or structures does not have to be repaired, replaced, or recovered in accordance with the Florida Building Code under certain circumstances; requiring condominium associations and cooperative associations to have milestone inspections performed on certain buildings at specified times; authorizing local enforcement agencies to prescribe timelines and penalties relating to milestone inspections; revising the types of records that constitute the official records of a condominium association; prohibiting certain members and associations from waiving or reducing reserves for certain items after a specified date, etc.”
Specifically, a few sections should be noted to be of great importance with regard to the upkeep of the condominium buildings. Section 3 of Section 55.3899(2)(b) was added to define “substantial structural deterioration”. It defines substantial structural deterioration as distress that negatively affects a building’s general structural condition and integrity. But it does further note that the term does not include surface imperfections such as cracks, distortion, sagging, deflections, misalignment, signs of leakage, or peeling of finishes unless a licensed engineer or architect performing inspection determines that such surface imperfections are a sign of substantial structural deterioration.
Further, concern has been expressed regarding the new “milestone inspection” requirement laid out by Senate Bill 4D. This Senate Bill does not require milestone inspections for condominium and cooperative buildings two stories or less. Per the latest revisions by the Florida Senate to Florida Statutes Section 718, condominium and cooperative buildings three stories and over must receive an inspection within a certain time frame that meets the new milestone inspection requirements for structural integrity. Those that are two or one story do not have to follow the set year inspection requirements, but one should be aware that lawmakers and legislators are looking closely at the condition of condominium buildings when it comes to resident safety.
However, as to balconies specifically, if the balcony is supported by items that hold general structural integrity, they are considered under the list to watch for substantial structural deterioration. If left unfixed and without inspection and a balcony structure fails or an individual is injured while the Board of Directions and Community Association Manager is aware of potential substantial structural deterioration regarding the balconies, then such a failure is a breach of an officers and directors’ fiduciary relationship to the unit owners under Florida Statutes Section. 718.111(1).
The attorneys at The Orlando Law Group represent condominium owners as well as COAs in Orlando, Waterford Lakes, Altamonte Springs, Winter Garden, Lake Nona, St. Cloud, Kissimmee, and throughout central Florida.
If you are a condominium owner, or an Association board member, please reach out to our office at 407-512-4394, fill out our online contact form or save this information in case you ever find yourself or a loved one needing to use it. We provide representation and legal services for both homeowners and Associations alike.
If you have questions about anything discussed in this article or other legal matters, give our office a call at 407-512-4394 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. We have an office conveniently located at 12301 Lake Underhill Rd, Suite 213, Orlando, FL 32828, as well as offices in Seminole, Osceola and West Orange counties to assist you.