Effective July 1, 2016, § 83.683, Florida Statutes, requires landlords, condominium associations, cooperative associations and homeowners associations to process rental applications submitted by service members within seven days of submission. Within that seven day period, the landlord or association must notify the service member in writing of an application approval or denial and, if denied, the reason for the denial. If a rental application submitted by a service member is not timely denied, the landlord or the association must allow the lease to the service member if he or she has complied with all other terms of the application and lease. The statute applies to all “Service members,” which means any person serving as a member of the United States Armed Forces on active duty or state active duty and all members of the Florida National Guard and United States Reserve Forces.

Community associations should take steps to ensure they are able to comply with the requirements of § 83.683. If an association requires a prospective tenant to submit a lease application before residing in a unit or parcel, have a policy in place for handling lease applications and be sure to ask on the application whether the prospective tenant is a service member. This may require revisions to an Association’s standard lease application form. If a service member is the applicant, the Association must have policies and procedures in place to process the application within the seven day time period. To the extent a board of directors meeting is required under the Association’s procedures to approve or deny a lease, the Association may need to schedule a special board of directors meeting within the allowed time period to consider the application.

More generally speaking, Associations should ensure that authority to approve or deny leases is provided in the governing documents. Some Associations require submittal of rental application but find they have no authority to approve or deny the application in the governing documents. Additionally, as discussed in a prior blog post on The Condo & HOA Law Bulletin, lease approval provisions should be tailored to ensure that they do not impose unreasonable restraints on a unit owner’s ability to lease his unit. Competent counsel can help to ensure that your leasing provisions and application are valid if challenged.