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Should Condominium Associations Be Permitted to Invest Operating and Reserve Funds? SB 1490 Says Yes!

Should Condominium Associations Be Permitted to Invest Operating and Reserve Funds? SB 1490 Says Yes!
For years there have been significant legal constraints on a condominium association’s ability to use reserve funds. In addition to the statutory requirement to obtain membership approval for non-designated reserve usage, the prevailing school of thought was that association funds could not be invested since investments can and do fail. A newly filed bill by Senator Jason Pizzo, SB 1490, could create a significant change in terms of an association’s ability to invest the community’s operating and reserve funds in depositories other than a traditional bank or savings and loan. The bill provides as follows: “Unless otherwise prohibited in the declaration, and in accordance with s. 718.112(2)(f), an association, including a multicondominium association, may invest any funds in one or any combination of investment products described in this subsection.” If this bill passes and an association invests funds in any type of investment product other than a depository account, the association must meet all of the following requirements:
  1. The board shall annually develop and adopt a written investment policy statement and select an investment adviser who is registered under s. 517.12, F.S. and who is not related by affinity or consanguinity to any board member or unit owner. Any investment fees and commissions may be paid from the invested reserve funds or operating funds.
  2. The investment adviser selected by the board shall invest any funds not deposited into a depository account in compliance with the prudent investor rule in s. 518.11, F.S. It is important to note that the statutory prudent investor rule is a test of conduct and not resulting performance. Under this statute, no specific investment or course of action is, taken alone, considered prudent or imprudent. Instead, the investment adviser is deemed to be acting as a fiduciary and he or she may invest in every kind of property and type of investment, subject to that statute. The fiduciary’s investment decisions are evaluated on the basis of whether he or she exercised reasonable business judgment regarding the anticipated effect on the investment portfolio as a whole under the facts and circumstances prevailing at the time of the decision or action. Although the proposed statute requires that funds invested be subject to insurance under the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, it is important to note that this insurance is only there if the brokerage firm fails, not if the investment turns out to be ill-advised and loses the association’s money.
  3. The investment adviser shall act as a fiduciary to the association in compliance with the standards set forth in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 at 29 U.S.C. s. 1104(a)(1)(A)-(C).
  4. At least once each calendar year, the association shall provide the investment adviser with the association’s investment policy statement, the most recent reserve study report or a good faith estimate disclosing the annual amount of reserve funds which would be necessary for the association to fully fund reserves for each reserve item, and the financial reports.
  5. The investment adviser shall annually review these documents and provide the association with a portfolio allocation model that is suitably structured to match projected reserve fund and liability liquidity requirements. There must be at least thirty-six (36) months of projected reserves in cash or cash equivalents available to the association at all times.
  6. Portfolios managed by the investment adviser may contain any type of investment necessary to meet the objectives in the investment policy statement; however, portfolios may not contain stocks, securities, or other obligations that the State Board of Administration is prohibited from investing in under ss. 215.471, 215.4725, and 215.473, F.S. or that state agencies are prohibited from investing in under s. 215.472.
Lastly, the bill would exempt registered investment advisors from having their bids subjected to the competitive bidding requirements found in Section 718.3026, F.S.  The companion bill to SB 1490 is HB 1005 (Killebrew/Fine). As more associations change their old habits and begin to fund reserves, the allure of more aggressive investment vehicles for these funds, which can be substantial amounts, is undeniable. However, the risk is also undeniable. As such, if this bill becomes law and the investment of reserves becomes available, boards are strongly encouraged to take an extremely cautious, measured approach with reserves. While investment of your association’s operating and reserve funds might result in a substantially better return than a savings account, you might also see significant losses. The investment of association funds must be done with careful consideration of the demographic in your community, the age of your buildings and facilities, the required liquidity of your funds and, most importantly, the sensitivities and risk tolerance of your membership all taken into account. If your members fuss about your board’s landscaping decisions imagine the potential fallout if you make the wrong investment decisions!