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

Published March 8, 2011


I really have had it now with the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, which under the cover of lobbying for associations is actually doing nothing more than filling their own pockets. In my opinion they are nothing more than a protection racket for dictatorial board members. Under the pretense of lobbying for associations they collect money from boards and use association funds to finance CALL (Community Association Leadership Lobby), the lobbying arm of the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff.


Last year B&P lobbied for S 1196, a bill that was dubbed the Community Association Lawyer Relief Act. That bill did absolutely nothing to help associations deal with the serious financial crises caused by foreclosures and unpaid dues, but it surely increased the legal fees caused by even more lawsuits created by the vague language of the bill. The provisions in this bill pitted neighbors against neighbors and renters against associations -- without solving any financial issues. Instead of filling the bank accounts of the associations, as promised -- some near the brink of bankruptcy -- it filled the pockets of lawyers and community association management firms. Now that law firm is at it again, trying to push S530, a bill that would add more of the same to the community association statutes. How greedy can you get -- at the expense of the owners that still pay their assessments as they try to keep their communities financially alive? Remember:



All that's bad enough, but I really got angry when I heard that Travis Moore, the lobbyist for CALL, the CAI (Community Associations Institute, trade organization for community association service providers) and the Continental Group, Inc. and attorney Peter Dunbar (law firm of Pennington Moore Wilkinson Bell & Dunbar PA) caused the HOA Election Reform provision to be removed from S1516. We are talking here about a group of people that I consider to be the biggest enemies of Florida homeowners and condo owners.  I am not sure what did more damage to our communities: Banks and mortgage companies that caused the unpaid dues and foreclosures with their irresponsible lending practices, or the groups represented by Travis Moore and Peter Dunbar.


Ever since 2002 I have heard Peter Dunbar's pathetic argument: "We don't even know how many homeowners' associations we have in Florida, so how can we regulate them?" But try to propose easy ways [see below] to find out -- Dunbar will be all over you with more pathetic arguments. 


Dunbar likes changes to FS 720 (so he can publish a new edition of his book The Law of Florida Homeowners Associations).  But he surely doesn't want fair elections in homeowners' associations, because his firm represents HOAs and developers that have a hard time counting votes -- or create counts in their favor [MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY! BUY IT -- OR ELSE!].


The founding principal of Becker & Poliakoff, P.A. is Gary Poliakoff.  Together with Peter Dunbar, Gary Poliakoff is responsible for many of the statutes that have made a litigious environment out of Florida 's community associations. They surely achieved their goal: Getting rich at the expense of owners and renters living in Florida's community associations. Instead of peaceful communities many of our citizens are facing an environment where the laws pit neighbors against neighbors, much to the delight of these attorneys. Their influence in Tallahassee allowed them to be part of conferences behind closed doors that are held between the stakeholders -- legislators obviously don't consider homeowners and condo owner stakeholders, they are just good for paying taxes and legal bills.


My opinion about Becker & Poliakoff was never really high, but now they even stooped so low as to file a lawsuit for libel/slander against an owner in a South Florida HOA.  The homeowner had created his own website after the board president, with the help of Becker & Poliakoff, tried to shut up the owners who have legitimate complaints. [LAWSUITS TO PROTECT PRESIDENTS' BRUISED EGOS?] More owners' wasted money to the delight of this law firm! I hope that B&P attorney Chris Draper finally gets the publicity he rightfully deserves. I always thought these kinds of lawsuits were the trademark of attorney Robert Kaye.


Dictatorships never liked free speech -- and fair elections. The original version of S1516 was not even properly published when Peter Dunbar and Travis Moore went to work to kill the election and education provisions in S1516 [Lines 242 - 247] These attorneys know full well that owners are easier to fleece if the people in charge can rig the elections. In my opinion they collect "protection" money to keep power-hungry board members in their seats and pay money into the CALL coffers to lobby against owner-friendly bills! Estimated 2.5 million owners in homeowners’ associations in Florida will have to go through another year of rigged elections -- or no elections at all -- because some greedy attorneys prefer elections similar to  those in Banana Republics to keep their clients in power.


But as Gary Poliakoff claimed at a town hall meeting: "These homeowners knew what they are getting into when they signed the contract."

I guess Poliakoff means that these good people deserve everything they have coming -- including rigged elections!

These law firms are fighting any owner-friendly laws that would help to minimize the chaos in Florida's homeowners' associations. Sorry, but I have only contempt for the way these firms and their executives act! In my opinion they are profiting from the misery of many homeowners and condo owners -- a misery they were lured into by false promises!


According to history books, this country was built on the foundation of Democracy, Free Speech and Fair Elections. None of it can be found in our community associations -- courtesy of lawyers like Gary Poliakoff and Peter Dunbar. No wonder activists warn potential buyers as they contemplate buying a home in a homeowners' association: "YOU ARE LEAVING THE AMERICAN ZONE!"


In my opinion every honest community association board should boycott the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, because the money they contribute to CALL is used to lobby against association-friendly and owner-friendly bills and just promotes bills that help to increase the profit of this law firm!



Every Not-For-Profit Corporation is required to file an Annual Business Report

Add this question to the form:  Is your corporation a mandatory Homeowners' Association regulated by FS 720?

Add two check boxes for YES or NO.

At the end of the year you will have an exact count.   

But I guess that's too easy -- especially if “not knowing” is often used as a stupid excuse. I guess an easy solution is just too easy for Tallahassee

I made this suggestion in 2004 in front of the HOUSE BUSINESS REGULATION COMMITTEE in response to the same argument brought by Peter Dunbar. However, eight years later in 2011 he still uses the same pathetic excuse to kill owner-friendly HOA bills.