Monthly Archives

June 2017

CA Managed Communities Rank #1 & #2 as Tampa Bay’s Best Neighborhoods and Top 25 Nationally – Tampa Bay Business Journal

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Ever wonder which neighborhoods are considered the best in the area? Pittsburgh-based Niche evaluates neighborhoods based on more than a dozen factors, including higher education rate, housing affordability and availability, diversity, commute time and many others.

Tampa neighborhoods dominated the top of Niche’s state ranking in 2017, accounting for the top eight neighborhoods in Florida and 19 of the top 25.


Easton Park in New Tampa was the highest-ranked neighborhood in the region. Easton Park, with a population of 2,367, ranked first in the state and 19th in the country. Harbour Island also made it to the top 25 nationally at No. 24.

The top 25 neighborhoods in Tampa Bay were almost exclusively located in Tampa, specifically in South Tampa and New Tampa. Only one St. Petersburg neighborhood, Bayou Highlands, made Niche’s top 25.

The top Tampa Bay neighborhoods are not necessarily the wealthiest. While the median household income for all 25 was above the local average, it ranges from just over $60,000 to nearly $150,000. Median home value likewise had a wide range, from $133,878 to $672,904.

View the photo gallery for data on the top 25 neighborhoods in the Tampa Bay area. You can also explore the interactive map below to see where these neighborhoods are located.

Chris Erickson is Research Director for the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

The 2017 Fla. Legislature Returns To Condo Land

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June 1, 2017

Once again, after a one-year hiatus, the Florida Legislature has produced several condominium bills. Typically, the Legislature passes a single condominium bill into which other approved bills have been merged. This year, perhaps to make up for the failure to enact any condominium legislation, four bills were passed: CS/CS/CS/HB653 (HB653), CS/CS/HB1237 (HB1237), (CS/CS/CS SB398 (SB398), and CSSB1520 (SB1520) were passed by both houses of the Florida Legislature and are awaiting approval or disapproval by Governor Scott.

The HB653 and HB1237, as typical, run 69 and 51 pages respectively and deal with a potpourri of issues for Florida condominiums. SB398 deals only with estoppels and SB1520 deals only with condominium terminations which also appears verbatim in HB653. The principal changes are summarized below. HB653 and HB1237 share many of the same provisions and the references below to “both bills” are to these two bills.

Fire Sprinklers. There has been a long-running battle between older mid-rise and high-rise condominiums and the state and county fire marshals regarding installation of fire sprinkler systems. The fire marshals claim sprinkler installation is a life safety issue and will save lives while the older condominiums do not want to bear the substantial cost of installing new sprinklers. HB653 clarifies that an opt-out from fire sprinkler requirements is permitted with a two-thirds vote of the voting interests in buildings more than 75 feet high and that no requirement exists for fire sprinklers in existing buildings of 75 feet or less in height. It also moves the required outside date for sprinkler installation compliance from Jan. 1, 2020. to Jan. 1, 2022. However, if the building is three stories or more, this bill requires the installation of on-premises signage in a form approved by the state fire marshal warning of the lack of sprinklers in the common areas.

Condo Fraud. After a series of articles in the Miami Herald regarding improper elections, fraud and kick-backs by officers and directors of condominiums in Miami-Dade County, there has been a push to criminalize such improper conduct. Criminal penalties are imposed for forgery of election materials, embezzlement of condominium funds, destruction of condominium records and refusal to permit inspection of such records. Both bills specifically include “kickbacks” as prohibited conduct. Moreover, if an officer or director is charged with misconduct, such person is automatically removed from office and not subject to re-election unless he or she is ultimately cleared of the charges. Another way of describing this procedure is “guilty until proven innocent.” Criminalization had generally been opposed by the Condominium Bar on the theory that it is difficult to obtain volunteers to serve on the board of directors and the imposition of criminal penalties might make it impossible to fill a position which most people already think is a thankless one. Both bills also prohibit directors, managers and management company from acquiring condominium units in any proceedings to enforce the condominium association’s lien rights either at a foreclosure sale or by acquiring title by deed in lieu of foreclosure. The acquisition of title by one of the prohibited parties by deed in lieu is difficult to conceive unless accomplished in a two-step process in which title is first acquired from the association.

Access to Condominium Records. Currently only condominium owners have inspection rights over condominium documents. Both bills add to existing document inspection rights inspection by a designated representative of a unit owner and by a tenant. A tenant, however, has only limited authority to inspect and copy the association’s by-laws and rules. Both bills also provide that condominiums with 150 or more units will need to establish a website by July 1, 2018, to post the association’s governing documents: the declaration of condominium and articles, by-laws and rules of the association (together with all amendments), management and other agreements made by the association, budgets and financial reports, certifications supplied by directors regarding their familiarity with the Condominium Act. In lieu of other forms of providing notice of meeting, notices of meeting may be given by posting on the association’s website.

Financial Reporting. Both bills eliminate the exemption of smaller condominiums containing less than 50 units from providing financial statements of the type prepared by an independent accountant but allow a majority of voting interests in such condominiums to waive such financial statement requirements. HB653 eliminates the requirement that an association cannot waive the statutes’ financial reporting requirements for more than three consecutive years. Both bills add an enforcement mechanism for owners to obtain financial reports of the association by allowing an owner to report such failures to the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes. If the association fails to deliver the statements to the division and the owners it is thereafter barred from electing out of reporting requirements for financial statements. While well intentioned, such enforcement mechanism appears rather toothless. In addition, HB1237 requires associations to provide an annual report to the division of the financial institutions in which the association maintains accounts. It is not clear the purpose of such requirement but such reports do allow owners access to such information.

Assessments. HB653 requires that notice of a board meeting at which regular or special assessments will be considered must state that assessments are on the agenda and include the estimated amount and purpose of such assessments. While current law requires that notice of special assessments appear on a meeting notice, the requirements for regular assessment and the amount and purpose of such assessments is new.

Board of Directors. HB1237 imposes term limits for serving on the board to four consecutive two-year terms unless the term limit is waived by at least two-thirds of the total voting interests or there are not enough eligible candidates to fill the board positions. Furthermore, this bill also eliminates board certification of a vote to recall board members. It therefore appears that a board member being recalled cannot dispute the recall prior to removal but would need to contest by petition to the division after recall and perhaps replacement and apparently at his or her own expense. Conflicts of Interest. HB1237 contains extensive provisions dealing with conflicts of interest. However, some of these provisions are inconsistent with each other. One provision prohibits contracts with service providers if such a provider has a financial relationship with a director or officer or someone related to the director by blood or marriage. However, another provision appears to permit such contracts if the conflict is disclosed, the director recuses himself or herself on the voting for such contract and the board approves the contract.

Estoppel Certificates. Existing law contains a provision for the issuance of estoppel (or status) certificates by the condominium association. SB398, however, greatly expands the scope of this provision. The bill allows requests to be made by electronic means (i.e., email) and requires the association to designate an email address for such requests. It also specifies the contents of the certificate to be produced by the association which includes the date of the certificate, name of owner, unit number, any owned parking spaces, the association’s attorney if payments are delinquent, the charge for the certificate, the name of the person requesting the certificate, the amount of the periodic assessment with a paid through date, the date the next installment is due, an itemized list of charges, a list of scheduled additional or special assessment not currently due, transfer fees, open violations by the existing owner, whether board approval is necessary for a transfer of the unit and, if so, if such approval has been provided, whether a right of first refusal exists and, if so, whether it has been exercised and contact information for other associations governing the unit and for the association’s insurance carriers. The bill indicates an estoppel certificate remains effective for 30 days from issuance or for 35 days if mailed. The bill limits the charges for an estoppel certificate to $250 but permits an additional charges of $150 if the owner is delinquent and $100 for expedited service within 3 business days. Otherwise the bill requires delivery within 10 business days and prohibits any charges by the association for certificates delivered beyond such period. In cases where certificates for multiple units owned by the same party are requested, there is a sliding scale per unit starting at $750 for up to 25 units increasing to $2,500 for more than 100 units. If someone other than the unit owner requests the certificate and the closing for which it was requested fails to occur, the association has to return the fee. The bill also contains an adjustment mechanism to increasing the amount of permissible fees every 5 years based on increases in the Consumer Price Index.

Terminations. Perhaps the most controversial area in HB653 is the changes to the provisions allowing condominium terminations. These provisions also appear as a freestanding bill in SB1520. Since changes in the termination statute in 2007 permitting optional terminations, several hundred condominiums have been terminated. Most of these were as a result of the Great Recession where many condominium conversions, from rental apartments to condominiums, were reverted by termination to rentals. Although the great majority of these terminations were without incident, and in many cases resulted in an improvement of the property, there were a few high profile and well publicized terminations in which the concept of termination became an anathema. In these cases, homeowners lost their homes and wound up with a bill from their lenders as a result of the deficiency between their proceeds from the termination and the amount of their mortgages. Both of these bills were intended to make terminations of condominiums much more difficult. There is no doubt that the legislature has succeeded in this goal. The bills lower the threshold of voting interests needed to defeat a termination plan from at least 10 percent to at least 5 percent. They also require division approval of a termination plan but lacks specifics on the division’s standards for such approval. The bills also increase the waiting period necessary to resubmit a plan of termination upon failure to adopt a prior plan from 18 months to 24 months. Furthermore, they increase the lockout period for a termination from 5 years after the declaration of condominium was filed to 10 years. The bills also provide that any owner of homestead property objecting to a successful termination must receive at least his or her purchase price regardless of party from whom the unit was purchased. Existing law only requires such 100 percent recovery if the unit was purchased from the developer. The bills also change the disclosure requirements contained in a plan of termination. The definition of “bulk owner” for which special disclosures are required is reduced from 50 percent of the units to 25 percent of the units thereby increasing the pool of parties needing to make such disclosures. A requirement is added that the termination plan disclose “factual circumstances” that indicate that the plan “supports the expressed public policies of this section.” This is an amorphous standard at best. It is not clear what “public policies” would be supported if 100 percent of the owners decided it would be advantageous to them personally to terminate their condominium. Finally, the bills attempt to make the changes to the statute retroactive to apply to all existing condominiums. Such a provision in the current termination statute has previously been challenged in several cases which uniformly held that termination provisions could not be given retroactive effect based on constitutional restraints.

Alternate Dispute Resolution. HB1237 imposes additional qualifications for people to serve as arbitrators. It requires at least five years of Florida Bar membership and at least mediation or arbitration of 10 disputes involving condominiums and 30 disputes overall within the three years immediately prior to the application for certification. Alternatively one may qualify if certified in real estate or condominium and planned development law. The bill also mandates that an arbitrator conduct a hearing on an appropriate dispute, as determined by the division, within 30 days after being assigned by the division and render a decision within 30 days after such hearing. These requirements represent in a widespread dissatisfaction with the current arbitration process.

Voting Rights. HB1237 modifies the ability of the association to suspend voting rights for nonpayment of monetary amounts by requiring at least a delinquency of $1,000 and a 30 day notice prior to suspension. It also denies a receiver of a unit the ability to exercise voting rights.

Bulk Purchases. Part VII of the Condominium Act was enacted in 2010 with a limited life of 2 years. Adopted during the Great Recession, its purpose was to shield bulk purchasers of condominium units from potential developer liability thereby encouraging absorption of unsold units. This legislation has been largely credited with reducing the absorption of inventory originally estimated at 5 to 10 years to 2 to 3 years. Part VII was extended by the legislature several times and currently was set to expire on July 1, 2018. HB653 removes the sunset and Part VII will now be a permanent part of the Condominium Act.

These bills, as with previous condominium legislation, seem to have something for everyone. And, as in the past, appear to have provisions desirable to some constituents and undesirable to others. As we prepare for the 2018 legislative session, we can expect another annual tinkering with the Condominium Act with similar results and an expansion of a statute that already runs considerably more than 100 pages.

Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLPMartin A. Schwartz

Pinellas Unveils New Hurricane Evacuation Map And App

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June 2, 2017

With the beginning of hurricane season Thursday, officials in Pinellas County are encouraging residents to check what their evacuation levels are because they may have changed since last year.

Thanks to updated storm surge maps, some people are now either more or less likely to evacuate in a hurricane.

Sally Bishop, the director of Pinellas County Emergency Management, said more than 85,000 properties changed evacuation levels, with almost 75,000 now evacuating sooner than before.

In addition, another 20,000 properties changed from a non-evacuation zone to an evacuation zone.

“So it’s really critical that our citizens get online with our tools, call the office, use our interactive voice response system. There’s a multitude of ways for them to check their evac zones, but the fact that they check it so they know what it is for 2017 going forward,” Bishop said.

Bishop adds that the change means around 10 public shelters that previously were not in an evacuation zone are now in D and E zones – the last areas to evacuate when storm surge hits up to 28 to 35 feet.

“So you’re talking a major, major hurricane that requires a level D or E evacuation,” she said.

The county also rolled out its new “Ready Pinellas” app, which will help residents who would like to plan for hurricane season now.

The new “Ready Pinellas” app helps Pinellas County residents prepare for hurricane season and shows location-based evacuation information.

Credit Pinellas County Emergency Management

“I like to call it our ‘just in time’ app or your ‘plan in your pocket’ app,” Bishop said. “It’s location-based, so if you’ve got your location services turned on on your mobile device, it’ll tell you what the evacuation zone is at the location that you’re at.”

“If it’s an actual storm event, it’ll tell you if we’ve ordered an evacuation level and what level we’ve ordered,” she added. “It consolidates all these other tools on our website into a convenient mobile app so you can check your evacuation level there, you can go see how much storm surge would be expected at that location through our storm surge protector app.

“You can monitor social media through it. You can use our checklists while you’re out at the stores and be checking off, right on the app, that you’ve gotten those items done. ”

Pinellas County residents can find their evacuation zone by visiting

The new app can also be downloaded free for Apple or Android mobile devices by searching “Ready Pinellas” in your app store or by going to

By Mark Schreiner

The Essential Guide to Hurricane Preparedness

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The 2016 Hurricane Season begins June 1st with predictions of 12 named storms including five hurricanes and two major hurricanes. As with every hurricane season regardless of forecast, knowing the essentials of how to prepare could truly be a life saver.

Hurricane Knowledge

First, know your hurricane facts and understand common terms used during hurricane forecasts. Storm conditions can vary on the intensity, size and even the angle which the tropical cyclone approaches your area, so it is vital you understand what the forecasters and news reporters are telling you.

Tropical Depressions are cyclones with winds of 38 mph. Tropical Storms vary in wind speeds from 39-73 mph while Hurricanes have winds 74 mph and greater. Typically the upper right quadrant of the storm (the center wrapping around the eye) is the most intense portion of the storm. The greatest threats are damaging winds, storm surge and flooding. This is in part why Hurricane Katrina was so catastrophic when bringing up to 28 foot storm surges onto the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines.

Here are some important terms you may hear:

  • Tropical Storm Watch: Tropical storm conditions are possible in the area.
  • Hurricane Watch: Hurricane conditions are possible in the area. Watches are issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds.
  • Tropical Storm Warning: Tropical storm conditions are expected in the area.
  • Hurricane Warning: Hurricane conditions are expected in the area. Warnings are issued 36 hours in advance of tropical storm force winds.
  • Eye: Clear, sometimes well-defined center of the storm with calmer conditions.
  • Eye Wall: Surrounding the eye, contains some of the most severe weather of the storm with the highest wind speed and largest precipitation.
  • Rain Bands: Bands coming off the cyclone that produce severe weather conditions such as heavy rain, wind and tornadoes.
  • Storm Surge: An often underestimated and deadly result of ocean water swelling as a result of a landfalling storm, and quickly flooding coastal and sometimes areas further inland.

During a watch, prepare your home and evacuation plan in case a warning is issued. During a warning, carefully follow the directions of officials, and immediately leave the area if they advise it. In the event of an Extreme Wind Warning/Advisory, which means that extreme sustained winds of 115 mph or greater are expected to begin within an hour, immediately take shelter in the interior portion of a well-built structure.

Hurricane Forecasts

Predicting a tropical cyclone’s path can be challenging; there are many global and local factors that come into play. The storm’s size and path can directly influence what sort of wind patterns guide, enhance or hinder its growth, and vice versa! Forecasters have computers that take huge amounts of data and try to predict where the storm will go and usually can calculate 2-3 days out fairly accurately. This is where you hear the terms computer models and spaghetti models being used. Generally the forecast track or path is given with the average consensus of these models. The National Hurricane Center has the most up-to-date information on tropical cyclone developments, forecasts and weather alerts, discussions analyzing the data and more.

Hurricane Names

Hurricane names are picked randomly, then rotated and recycled every 6 years. If a hurricane was catastrophic or severely deadly and costly (i.e. Charlie, Katrina, Irene) it is officially retired since use is not appropriate and can be confusing when naming current storms. To view the current list of tropical cyclone names click here:

Hurricane Kits

It is important to create a kit of supplies that you could take with you if you are forced to evacuate. This kit will also be useful if you are able to stay in your home, but are still affected by the storm, such as through the loss of power. One common trend seen when hurricanes are approaching is a wide-spread panic. When this happens, people rush in large numbers to get all the supplies they think they need. However, if you prepare your kit ahead of time, you can alleviate a lot of the potential stress of a very chaotic situation. You should create your kit in a bag that you can easily take with you. Some recommended items to include are:

  • Non-perishable food (enough to last at least 3 days)
  • Water (enough to last at least 3 days)
  • First-aid kit (include any prescription medication you may need)
  • Personal hygiene items and sanitation items
  • Flashlights (have extra batteries on hand)
  • Battery operated radio (again, have extra batteries)
  • Waterproof container with cash and important documents
  • Manual can opener
  • Lighter or matches
  • Books, magazines, games for recreation
  • Special needs items: pet supplies and baby supplies if applicable
  • Cooler and ice packs
  • A plan for evacuation and for if family members are separated

Securing Your Home

Know how to secure your home in the event of damaging winds, storm surge and flooding.

  • Cover all of your windows, either with hurricane shutters or wood.
  • Although tape can prevent glass from shattering everywhere, be warned that tape does not prevent the window from breaking.
  • If possible, secure straps or clips to securely fasten your roof to the structure of your home.
  • Make sure all trees and shrubs are trimmed and clear rain gutters.
  • Reinforce your garage doors.
  • Bring in all outdoor furniture, garbage cans, decorations, and anything else that is not tied down.
  • If winds become strong, stay away from windows and doors and close, secure and brace internal doors.

Power Outages

In the event a storm should leave you without power, there are a few things to consider and help you be ready and stay safe outside of your normal hurricane preparedness.

  • Gas: Make sure your tank is full far in advance of an approaching storm. Most people wait until the last minute, rush to get extra gas for cars and generators, and subsequently gas stations can run out early.
  • ATMS: Have extra cash on hand in the event no ATMS in your area are accessible or working.
  • Cell Phones: Charge your cell phone and limit use after power is out.
  • A/C: This can be the most uncomfortable side effect of losing power during a storm. Try to prevent as much light from entering and warming the house by covering up your windows on the inside. If you have back-up or battery operated fans, don’t run them unless you are in the room. Fans create a difference in perceived temperature but do not cool the room; instead they create a cooling effect by dispersing the heat off your skin. It is said they can actually add heat to a room just by running.
  • Water: Fill bathtub and large containers with water for washing and flushing only.
  • Food: Turn your fridge temperature down and/or freeze any food or drinking water that can be frozen if you expect a power outage. Here is a guide on freezing food: Freezing and Food Safety. Have a cooler with ice packs prepared to cool your drinks and snacks after power has been out for more than 4 hours. And importantly, check out this food safety guide for when to discard your perishable food:
  • Health/Safety: The CDC has a great guide on how to stay safe in the event of a power outage: Power Outages

Remember, any severe storm can be deadly and destructive. If you’ve survived a landfilling cyclone, you know the inconvenience and distress it can cause. One of the best tips to be prepared is knowing the cycle of a cyclone – Approach, Arrival & Aftermath. Prepare ahead of time and listen to the directions of officials for the approach. Secure your home, or find a safe shelter for its arrival, and know how to proceed safely during the aftermath.

Author: Christine Harrison