CYBER CITIZENS FOR JUSTICE, INC.

CCFJ, Inc. Headquarters

1156 Tall Oaks Road

DeLand, FL  32720-1225

Phone:  (386) 740-1503

E-Mail:  jan@ccfj.net

Web Pages:  http://www.ccfj.net/

                        http://www.ccfjedu.net

“From Justice As A Foundation All Rights Flow”

PRESENTATION AT THE TAMPA MEETING OF THE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION LIVING STUDY COUNCIL

March 13, 2009

 

Let’s be honest – these meetings of the Council are all too little, too late. Before this Council can finish its work, the major decisions are already made in Tallahassee – behind closed doors! But thank you all for being here and trying to do your best. The council members are the least ones to blame for the downfall. If we look for somebody to blame, let’s start with Division Chief Michael Cochran, whose weird interpretations of FS 718.501 obviously confused everybody, including himself. In my opinion it was done on purpose for obvious reasons. It took the Governor Charlie Crist to stop Michael Cochran from messing things up even more!

 

It’s actually the lack of enforcement of our laws that causes serious financial damage to our associations and its members. The Division clearly fails its duty. Most likely the Division is the condo owners’ worst enemy. Last year’s condo bill H 995 was totally torpedoed by the interpretations of the Division. I always thought I had a problem reading statutes because English is only my second language. But the Division “experts” even seem to have problems understanding the simple word ALL.

 

For years recalls of board members were simple and an easy way to deal with wayward boards. The HOA Task Force in 2004 praised the system and adopted it for homeowners’ associations. That was, until James Earl took over the reins of the arbitration section of the Division and invented new rules, from so-called reversed recalls to his reading of the statutes – or adding things that are not there -- to the point where simple issues turn into recall wars lasting many months.

 

And we all know that the best laws are useless without good enforcement. And that is where the Division clearly fails to do its job.

 

Vague language and lack of enforcement are the downfall of our complete association system. Our bad economy finally showed what these community associations really are: Financial traps for the owners who are still able to pay – until they are broke. But wait – we haven’t seen the worst yet!

 

Year after year it seems that legislators are trying to outdo each other with confusing the issues, fed by special interest lobbyists claiming to represent everybody and then some. But nobody asks the owners – the only people with a real vested interest -- what they really want. And if they really speak up, it seems nobody wants to listen. The reason: Too much money is at stake and greed is the downfall of every system. To me it always seems like the service providers are working hard to kill their own cash cow!

CCFJ, Florida ’s largest state-wide property owners’ advocacy organization, created a survey with more than 1000 responses solicited mostly by newspaper articles. We held in the last 14 months 5 big town hall meetings, with state legislators on the panel. More than 1300 people attended these meetings. Owners in Florida ’s community associations are struggling financially with ever- increasing dues, because of the mortgage crisis, empty homes and bankrupt developers. Special interest is fighting to find the scapegoat among each other – in my opinion they are all equally guilty because they didn’t want to see the writing on the wall – they only saw dollar signs. Owners in Florida's associations are unprotected – there are a lot more good protection laws for renters. I know owners who live in associations that look worse than slums. Anybody who would rent out something like that would find himself in jail – as a convicted slumlord. But who cares, as long as all the service providers can get rich?

So much said, members of our organization have said it since many years. Association law needs a comprehensive rewrite – in a language easy to understand. You can’t expect anybody to follow rules they don’t understand. 

 

We need a uniform association law – were applicable. It should still be separated into different chapters, but the language, where possible, should be the same. For elections, recalls, board meetings, amendments, records, record requests and financials – just to name a few important issues – it doesn’t matter if owners live in a condo, a HOA or a co-op.

 

Timeshares and condo hotels should be treated separately; they are a different kind of animal.

 

Then add a regulatory agency with strong enforcement power – with employees willing to do their job -- and we are on the right track!

 

Never forget that all the systems of living together – from communism to community associations – look great on paper – until human beings get involved. That’s why the best laws are useless without strict enforcement!

 

In the moment only one statement is truthful: When entering a community association, you are leaving the American Zone. And that has to change real fast, before all owners are flat broke, bankrupted by a system that surely isn’t owner-friendly – and does absolutely nothing to protect property values – as always advertised!

 

Serious changes are needed! Our government has shown that it is unable to rein in the beast. The parties with a vested interest should sit together at table and try to work something out.

 

Thank you for listening to my concerns!

 

Presentation By Jan Bergemann


MARCH 2009      --        PRESENTATION   COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION LIVING STUDY COUNCIL   


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