LEGAL NEWS - JULY 2005


THE FLORIDA APARTMENT ASSOCIATION ANNUAL CONVENTION AND TRADE SHOW IS COMING!! - HAVE YOU REGISTERED?  

On August 24, 25 and 26, the Florida Apartment Association will be presenting the Education Conference & Trade Show at the Boca Resort and Club in Boca Raton, Florida. This year, as always, will be jam packed with great speakers, training events, a huge trade show, and a golf tournament to benefit APAC, the Apartment Political Action Committee. Each year this event gets larger and better! It is a great time for all to learn from the best, network among the leaders in the multi-family housing industry, and have a great time.

Click here for more information.

 

MOLD BILL VETOED BY GOVERNOR BUSH

The 2005 Florida legislative session saw the passage of HB 315/SB 1830 which imposed certain requirements upon mold testers and remediators who operate in Florida. It was a great step towards stopping the rapid increase in the “fly by night” mold testing and remediation companies. Most importantly, the Florida Apartment Association was able to get an exclusion for on-site maintenance technicians allowing the on-site individual to deal with minor mold issues.  Unfortunately on June 22, 2005 Governor Jeb Bush decided to veto the bill. Stay tuned though - we will continue to seek passage of a Mold Bill in the next legislative session.

Click here for the the text of Governor Bush’s veto letter.
 

SECURITY DEPOSIT LAWSUITS ARE ON THE RISE  

Just as we have seen attorneys jumping on the bandwagon to solicit tenants who are under eviction, some Florida attorneys with whom we have been in contact indicated they are going to wage an all-out war on property managers who overcharge or incorrectly charge tenants when imposing a claim on the security deposit. In the past, our main concern was getting the notice out within the 30 days allowed by Florida law.  Now the real worry is doing it correctly. Rather than simply file a lawsuit against you for the return of the deposit, these attorneys intend on filing lawsuits based upon the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act and Florida law governing the charging of consumers and collecting from consumers. The stakes are high and the fines and attorney fee exposure is significant. Avoiding a lawsuit or winning a lawsuit regarding a security deposit is ENTIRELY up to you.
 

ARE JUDGES REAL PEOPLE?

Every year, especially during the summer months, our county court judges decide to do the unthinkable. They actually take vacations and go to conferences like the recent judicial conference in Key Largo.  Yes, judges eat, sleep, drive cars, vacation and even take sick days like regular people. They usually take off their robes though when outside the courthouse.  Do the wheels of justice grind to a complete halt? Not really but delays are inevitable. There is never a time when ALL the county court judges are gone at one time but when a judge takes a vacation or goes to a conference, that judge’s caseload is handled by another judge. Obviously, one judge cannot easily handle the workload of two judges so the judge who is covering, must prioritize what he or she handles for the week that the vacationing judge is gone. Guess what? Your eviction just might not be high on the covering judge’s priority list and quite often, if the case has progressed to a more complicated stage where there may be a stipulation or order in the file, the covering judge often feels more comfortable having the judge assigned to the case take further actions. The result? A delay until the judge gets back and just like the rest of us has to face a desk piled high with files.  Our firm tracks cases carefully and will fill you in if we know that a delay is caused by the judge’s absence.
 

COLLIER COUNTY REGISTRATION AND INSPECTION FEE UPDATE  

Has your county or municipality hit you with exorbitant registration and inspection fees yet? In last month’s newsletter we told you of the outrageous registration fees and inspection fees that Collier County decided to impose on housing providers on a PER UNIT basis. The Florida Apartment Association, Naples Area Apartment Association and Gary Scarboro, Governmental Affairs Director for the Florida Apartment Association jumped into action. The Florida Apartment Association pledged a matching fund up to $5000 to assist the Collier County members of the Naples Area Apartment Association. To date, over $3500 has been contributed by concerned Collier County apartment owners and management companies with attorney Robert Pritt of Roetzel and Andress now retained to fight this battle.

Click here to read the June 14 County Commission Scarboro transcript.  
 

EXECUTING THE WRIT OF POSSESSION  

You filed an eviction and patiently awaited the Final Judgment of Eviction from the court. The day has come and you instruct your attorney to have a Writ of Possession issued so you can finalize the eviction. Sounds easy and is. Now you get a phone call from the Sheriff’s deputy informing you the Writ has been served and the costly MISTAKES begin. Can they be avoided? Absolutely.

Click here to learn how to properly handle the most important aspect of the eviction action, the Writ of Possession.  
 

TERMINATING A TENANCY FOR HOUSEKEEPING ISSUES   

When does poor housekeeping rise to the level of an unsanitary condition? You feel you know. You see it, you smell it, but can you prove it in court? Often we are asked to provide a Seven Day Notice of Noncompliance With Opportunity to Cure for “housekeeping” issues and then we are asked for guidance in terminating the tenant. You would be surprised how difficult it can be to get a tenant to comply or evict on this basis.

Click here for some guidelines on dealing with the “messy” tenant.  
 

INDUSTRY LEADER OF THE MONTH - MICHAEL McVETY  

Michael McVety is General Manager of Realty Services Property Management Company in Fort Myers.  Realty Services has served most of the Lee County area for over 20 years where they manage over 300 single-family homes and condos as well as over 600 units in Association Management.  It is the only property management company in Florida to be awarded the Certified Residential Management Company (CRMC) designation by the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM).  Michael is President of Florida Tenant Reporting Services as well, a background screening company which serves hundreds of real estate companies and businesses throughout Florida. Michael is dedicated to furthering the level of education of property managers across the country.  He has been a speaker for the apartment, condominium and real estate industries at the local, state and national level and has recently served as the President of the Lee-Collier Chapter of NARPM for 3 years, Vice-President of the Southwest Florida Apartment Association and Associate Vice-President of the Naples Area Apartment Association.  He just ended his term as the President of FARPM (Florida Association of Residential Property Managers) in 2004-5. An interesting guy for sure, Michael has diverse interests outside work.  He is an avid reader and an athlete-especially in the areas of tennis and ice hockey (but of course, he is originally from Canada!).  He married Dr. Terri L. McVety about a year ago and agrees with the continual comments of how fortunate he was and is!
 

THE FAIR HOUSING CORNER - WHAT DOES YOUR AD SAY?
By Cathy L. Lucrezi, Attorney at Law

Advertisements, billboards, and brochures are your invitation to the public.  Their purpose, of course, is to draw new tenants to you.  But, how well do those ads communicate your commitment to fair housing?

 Recently, a landlord paid $100,000 in a settlement of a case dealing with advertisements.  The landlord’s ads showed only white models which conveyed an offensive and discouraging message to many African Americans. 

Both the federal and Florida fair housing acts make it unlawful to make, print or publish any advertisement for a rental that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.  [There are some very narrow exceptions, e.g., church-operated housing.] 

HUD’s guidelines call for human models used in housing advertisements to reflect the racial composition of the region served.  The safest bet?  Avoid having any humans in the ads. Many rental publications have in-house attorneys to review your ads for compliance. If you are uncertain, always check with an attorney.

Lastly, it is a great idea to add the Fair Housing Logo to your ads and brochures.  It demonstrates to the public (and to HUD in the event of an investigation) that you are committed to fair housing for everyone.

[Looking for a download of the little fair housing house?  Go to www.hud.gov.  Click on “Fair Housing”, and then click on “Library”.  Under the heading “Policy and Guidance”, you’ll see a link to the logo.]

In this issue:

FAA Annual Convention

Mold Bill Vetoed

Sec. Deposit Lawsuits

Are Judges Real People?

Collier County Fee Update

The Writ of Possession

Housekeeping Issues

Industry Leader of the Month

Fair Housing Corner

 
 
 

Legal News Archive:

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

 
 
 

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Law Offices of Heist, Weisse & Lucrezi, P.A.

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Law Offices of Heist, Weisse & Lucrezi, P.A.
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Serving Florida's Property Managers with offices in Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Myers Beach, Principal Office