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
– 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!
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.
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.
we all know that the best laws are useless without good
enforcement. And that is where the Division clearly fails to do
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!
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!
’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.
’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.
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.
and condo hotels should be treated separately; they are a
different kind of animal.
add a regulatory agency with strong enforcement power – with
employees willing to do their job -- and we are on the right
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!
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!
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.
you for listening to my concerns!
By Jan Bergemann
COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION LIVING STUDY COUNCIL