An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.

Published May 7, 2011


The worse the problems in Florida's condominiums and homeowners' associations are getting, the worse are the community association bills coming out of Tallahassee. And to add insult to injury: These legislators are daring to call them REFORM BILLS. Reforms for whom? The professionals that make big bucks by creating more problems in our associations?

Let's face it: Last year's bill S1196 and this year's bill H1195/S530 are an insult every honest citizen that lives in and/or owns property in one of many community associations. These bills are clearly nothing but legislators catering to the special interest that finance the campaigns of these legislators, with no concern for the welfare of the owners at all.

Every year we see bills being passed in the Florida legislature that throw a few breadcrumbs to the owners, but add many provisions that add to the income of the professionals that fleece the owners and create more dictatorial power for board members. My only explanation: A dictatorial legislative majority loves dictatorial HOA/Condo boards. 

Owners always hear: You signed a contract; you knew what you are getting into!



In both bills contractual rights of owners are being trampled upon -- often plainly ignored -- blatantly so. Or what do you call deleting the words in the statutes: If the governing documents so provide,

-- meaning: Who cares what the governing documents say? You buy into a homeowners' association where the Declaration clearly states: No fines, no revoking voting rights! Legislators, led by attorneys sponsoring such horrendous bills like George Moraitis, plainly ignore these contractual rights: We are almighty -- we do whatever we need to do to please the folks who financed our campaigns. Welfare of constituents? Nobody gives a Damn!


As an excuse for passing horrible bills, the sponsors always claim that they have to accept some bad provisions - H1195/S530 is full of bad provisions. We always hear: "Say NO to drugs!" How about: "Say NO to horrible bills?" In cases like this no bill at all is much preferable to a bill that is full of outrageous provisions -- provisions that do actually nothing to help the associations (meaning the owners who are still paying dues) deal with the financial disaster caused by unpaid dues and/or foreclosures.


Or how do you like a provision that allows dictatorial board members to blackmail "opposing" owners: "We fine you $1,000 - we'll find some reason -- and if you don't pay us the $1,000 we revoke your voting rights!" Either the owner gives them $1,000 -- or loses his voting rights. Don't forget the new language: "FS 720.305(4)(3)  If the governing documents so provide, An association may suspend the voting rights of a parcel or member for the nonpayment of any monetary obligation due to the association that is more than regular annual assessments that are delinquent in excess of 90 days delinquent. Any monetary obligation means everything the association demands -- right or wrong!


This is just one of the many examples in the bill that gives more dictatorial powers to board members -- cheered on by certain association attorneys.


I will never forget Gary Poliakoff's statements made at the Sun Sentinel Town Hall Meeting. The tenor: "Complaining owners shouldn't forget that they signed a contract. They knew what they were getting into." 


CALL (Community Association Leadership Lobby), the lobbying arm of the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, is responsible for most of the language trampling on owners' contractual rights in this bill. Need I say more?


In the last two years the worst enemy of Florida's homeowners and condo owners has been Senator Mike Fasano (R-Distr.11), the same guy who once promised to fight for owner-friendly bills -- if elected to the Senate. (I still have his responses in writing.)  Fasano has turned into the worst nightmare for Florida's community association owners. He blindly follows the lead of lobbyist Peter Dunbar -- no matter how bad the provisions in the bills are. Maybe Fasano doesn't know better, because his only experience regarding community associations comes from living with his mother in a 55+ mobile home park. But owners living in community associations can relax. Only one more session left for Fasano to do more damage. Then the folks in his district should see that they find him a job as a dog catcher -- or something similar. But if that really happens I can only say: Poor dogs -- if he treats them like his constituents!


Fasano should get an award when leaving the legislature. As a one-man wrecking machine, he succeeded in destroying all the real progress made by the HOA TASK FORCE in 2003/2004 --  his revenge, because the HOA TASK FORCE didn't agree with his weird proposals.


But House Sponsor George Moraitis (R-Distr.91) doesn't have the same excuse as Fasano. Moraitis is an attorney by profession. Moraitis should know full well -- if he didn't win his license at the county fair -- what some of the provisions will do to the contractual rights of owners. He should have understood that many of the provisions in HIS bill will add even more dictatorial power to certain board members. Moraitis might try the excuse: My initial bill was a good bill (it actually was) -- but it was changed and horrible provisions added. Even if Moraitis is a freshman in the legislature, he should know that there is always a way to withdraw a bill -- or drop the sponsorship. Moraitis should face the fact: His name will forever be connected with this BILL OF SHAME.


But before I forget -- some important news for the gullible board members who still believe that Becker & Poliakoff's CALL is really lobbying for associations/owners: 

The Brothers Grimm wrote REALITY SHOWS -- not FAIRY TALES!