House panel approves bill to create ombudsman, appeals process for HOA disputes

HB 1033 seeks to keep HOA disputes from reaching the courts. Floridians who tussle with homeowners associations (HOAs) could soon see a few more layers of process before anyone gets fined or goes to court under a bill approved Thursday by the House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee.

That panel unanimously advanced HB 1033 , seeking to create a state ombudsman’s office to offer non-binding arbitration in HOA disputes and an appeals process for HOA fines.

The bill would bring HOA governance more in line with condominium associations, which already have a state ombudsman’s office to provide arbitration. The measure would exceed what’s universally available for condo owners with the proposed new appeals board for homeowners associations.

Rep. Mike Beltran , a Lithia Republican sponsoring the bill, presented it with the argument that his office receives more complaints about homeowners association disputes than just about anything.

“People call my law office. People call my legislative office. Before coronavirus, this was the top concern: HOA disputes,” he added.

The disputes are often personal. Yet without alternatives, people feel they have to drag them into the courts, clogging courtrooms, Beltran said.

An ombudsman arbitration option — it is just an option in the bill — and an appeals committee to review fines assessed on homeowners should stop a lot of litigation, he suggested. And that could save everyone money.

“These disputes often times can get out of hand. People can run up $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, that’s either going to be borne by the association if the homeowner prevails. It’…

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