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The 2013 Legislative session has come and gone. As usual, there is legislation that will impact members of the construction industry. There seemed to be considerably less political infighting as compared to last year. As a result, more bills were pushed through the system. State revenues have increased with the improvement of the economy which made the legislators’ job easier.

Below is Part 2 of our yearly Legislative Review. You can read Part 1 here.

Senate Bill 112 – Filing False Documents

A 3rd degree felony is established for filing or directing the filing with the intent to defraud or harass another, any instrument containing a materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation that purports to affect an owner’s interest in real property. A second violation is a 2nd degree felony. However, if the filing is against a public officer or employee the 3rd degree felony becomes a 2nd degree felony and the 2nd degree felony becomes a 1st degree felony. The severity of punishment if the person convicted of filing false documents is incarcerated or in a pre-trial diversion at the time of filing is increased. The punishment is increased if the owner of the property covered by the false instrument incurs a financial loss as a result of the filing. Fraudulent claims of lien are not governed by this provision but, instead remain covered by Section 713.31.

With a conviction for violation of this section the court is required to declare that the instrument causing the conviction is null and void and it may enjoin the filing of any instruments in the official record without a review by a judge. A civil action is established for damages, punitive damages and a civil penalty of $2,500.00 for each instrument in violation of this act. The prevailing party is entitled to attorneys’ fees. It also criminalizes impersonation of a public officer or employee; unlawful simulation of legal process; and intimidation of a public officer or employee.

This bill has been approved by the Governor and takes effect October 1, 2013.

 SB 112 – Filing False Documents

Senate Bill 1410 – Fire Safety and Prevention

Chapter 633 Fire Safety and Prevention is substantially amended. The state fire marshal is required to adopt the current edition of the National Fire Protection Association Standard Fire Prevention Code but is not allowed to adopt the building, mechanical or plumbing codes of the NPFA. The Fire Marshal is also directed to adopt current editions of the Life Safety Code NFPA101.

This bill has been approved by the Governor and is now in effect.

 SB 1410 – Fire Safety and Prevention

Senate Bill 1122 – Florida Fire Prevention Code

Section 633.0215 is modified to require that fire officials enforce certain wall fire rated occupancy separations as defined in the Florida Building Code. It also exempts agricultural structures from the Florida Fire Prevention Code.

This bill has been approved by the Governor and is now in effect.

 SB 1122 – Florida Fire Prevention Code

House Bill 935 – Amendments to the Florida False Claims Act

The Florida False Claim Act (FFCA) is modeled on the Federal False Claims Act. This bill modifies that act in several respects generally to bring it closer to the Federal Act,

  1. The application of the bill has been expanded from state agencies to any state division or other state instrumentality.
  2. The definitions are modified to conform to the definitions found in the Federal False Claims Act.
  3. The Department of Legal Affairs is made the sole entity in the state to pursue FFCA claims except for those initiated or intervened in by the Department of Financial Services.
  4. The Department of Legal Affairs is granted subpoena power for use in investigations under FFCA and sets forth the procedures for use of such subpoenas.
  5. The right of the Department of Legal Affairs to dismiss a case is clarified and strengthened.

This bill has been approved by the Governor and is now in effect.

 HB 935 – Amendments to the Florida False Claims Act

House Bill 57 – Funding for the Florida Homeowner’s Construction Recovery Fund

As of January 2013 there were approximately 600 claims totaling $1 million against the Florida Homeowners’ Construction Recovery Fund. This Fund was established to compensate homeowners for losses caused by state licensed contractors. DBPR is given authority to transfer money it determines is not necessary to fund the Florida Building Code Administrators and Inspectors Board to the recovery fund. Because excess funds have built up, it is expected that DBPR will transfer $5 million from this board to the recovery fund this year and approximately $1.2 million annually in subsequent years.

This bill has been approved by the Governor and takes effect October 1, 2013

 HB 57 – Funding for the Florida Homeowner’s Construction Recovery Fund

House Bill 973 – Low Voltage Systems

Chapter 610 of the Florida Statutes which addresses cable and video services is amended to extend a licensure exemption to subcontractors of video and telecommunications systems servicers and exempt the company holding a certificate under Chapter 610 from the requirement of obtaining a local permit for its employees or subcontractors.

Section 49.503 is amended to create an exemption from electrical and alarm system regulatory requirements for certain in-state employees and sales representatives of security alarm companies who do not access customer premises or alarm codes and out of state personnel who do not install or repair alarm systems at a customer’s premises.

Low voltage system installation permitting is streamline by requiring local enforcement agencies to create a uniform scheme for alarm system permitting specifically including use of permit labels to be purchased at a fee not to exceed $55. It also provides for discipline of the contractor if the alarm system project does not pass inspection. Disciplinary action may be taken against a contractor who fails to submit timely notice of an installation. The contents of the notice which the contractor must provide are specifically set forth.

This bill has been approved by the Governor and takes effect October 1, 2013

 HB 973 – Low Voltage Systems

House Bill 87 – Mortgage Foreclosure

The average time between the first foreclosure filing and bank repossession is 853 days while the national average is 414 days. This bill establishes an alternate mortgage foreclosure procedure and allows lien holders as well as mortgagees to use the new procedure. It is design to speed up the foreclosure process where there are no real defenses. After filing the Plaintiff can request an order to show cause as to why a final judgment should not be entered. If the complaint is verified and complies with the statute, the court will issue the show cause order. A hearing date on the show cause order must be set by the Court after the later of twenty days after service of the order or forty-five days after service of the initial complaint and no sooner than thirty days after first publication if service is obtained by publication. The bill goes on to set forth the procedures to be followed with the clear intent that this alternative procedure would run its course much faster than the normal procedure. There are provisions that circumvent this procedure if a defendant has defenses to a mortgage foreclosure.

One of the issues with mortgage foreclosure cases has been the problem of lost, destroyed or stolen promissory notes. If the mortgage holder is unable to produce the original note in the foreclosure proceeding, it leaves open the possibility that another party could later claim ownership of the note and bring a second action for collection of the note. This bill establishes the means for providing protection against such a second suit by providing for an indemnification agreement, a bond, a letter of credit or some similar such item.

Under current law a lender has five (5) years from the foreclosure sale to file a deficiency action. This statute of limitation for this has been shortened to one year for a mortgage against residential property that is single family or up to four family dwelling unit. This limitation period begins on the eleventh (11th) day after the foreclosure sale or the day after the mortgagee accepts a deed in lieu of foreclosure. This bill provides protection to a bona fide purchaser at a foreclosure sale in the event that the holder of a lost note was not a party to the foreclosure action. The actual holder of the note may pursue recovery against any of the protections that the court would require the foreclosing party to establish.

This bill has been approved by the Governor and is now in effect.

 HB 87 – Mortgage Foreclosure

House Bill 553 – Workers’ Compensation Administration

This bill addresses the administration of the workers’ compensation system. Most of it is clarifying language. It does eliminate a requirement that health care providers be certified by the Department of Financial Services (DFS).

Increased benefits for injured employees with catastrophic temporary total disability are continued and the $700.00 a weekly cap on such benefits is removed since it is lower than the maximum weekly allowable under the current law. It eliminates the following requirements:

  1. That DFS approve advance payments of workers’ compensation benefits;
  2. That carriers submit reemployment status reports to DFS for review;
  3. That a vocational evaluation always be conducted prior to the DFS authorizing training and education; and
  4. That DFS serve as custodian of certain collective bargaining agreements.

Statutory language is amended to accurately reflect that DFS is responsible for monitoring and auditing workers’ compensation insurers and for assessing penalties for violations.

This bill has been approved by the Governor and is now in effect.

 HB 553 – Workers’ Compensation Administration