FEBRUARY 2, 2008 at 1:00 P.M.



Published February 11, 2008

By Jan Bergemann


On Saturday, February 2, Jeff Chester, COOCVE Recreation Committee Chairman, welcomed the crowd of estimated 300 owners and board members to Century Village East.


Chandra Parker  Dr. Virgil Rizzo  Val Lucier    Barry Silver


Charles Milsted, Associate State Director of Florida State Office of the AARP, explained that the obvious need for public protection, especially for the many elderly folks living in mandatory associations, had caused the AARP Public Policy Institute to commission Texas attorney David A. Kahne to write the Bill of Rights for Homeowners in Associations


David Kahne, Esq. (TX) is a well-known attorney from Houston , Texas whose private practice focuses on constitutional law, civil rights and property rights litigation. Kahne outlined the objective of the sample model statute created with input from many experts from around the nation.  If drafted and enacted, this model statute will create basic principles of Consumer Protection, with priorities on owners' rights, accountability, reasonableness and fairness.  As the statutes stand now, conflicts are common because associations have the power to make rules (like a legislature), enforce rules (like an executive), and resolve disputes over rules (like a judge) -- all through a board of volunteer directors, who may vary substantially in their knowledge, experience, and sometimes intent. In the absence of a separation of powers, homeowners lack vital checks and balances. The model statute attempts to create the necessary changes. (Please see HERE for details!)


Jan Bergemann, President of CCFJ, Inc., presented BILLS that are being introduced for the upcoming legislative session and talked especially about the rewritten HOA BILL that creates many necessary changes to protect owners against financial mismanagement, uncontrolled spending and even clear embezzlement! 


Val Lucier, Dr. Rizzo’s Chief Election Monitor and author of the educational book "Condo Board Election Revolt – How Florida’s First Condo Ombudsman Became A 500-Pound Gorilla", discussed the problems of association elections and the need for closing serious loopholes in the election process. His experience showed that existing procedures create an environment conducive and vulnerable to election fraud and or other election irregularities. 


Lucier introduced the "500-Pound Gorilla" -- Florida's First Condo Ombudsman, Dr. Virgil Rizzo -- who was greeted with hearty applause by the audience. Contrary to some attorneys and board members, many of Florida's condo owners appreciated Dr. Rizzo’s efforts to help the owners under siege!  Dr. Rizzo talked about the fact that mismanagement of the associations and abuse of the unit owners by the directors are the most common problems in condominiums.  Condominiums are private corporations that are operated by their officers and directors. In many instances these volunteer directors have little or no experience running a corporate business, which leads to poor judgment in the handling of association business and the treatment of owners.


The directors and owners are seeking help from the State of Florida to resolve these problems.  However, the State is not in the business of running private corporations. The State can only give guidance in the management of associations through legislative directives.


The Legislature must enact laws, not only to assist condominium owners in the proper operation of their associations, but also to provide uniformity and clarity regarding specific condominium issues.


Reconstruction After Casualty and Protection Against Abuse are laws that must be enacted.  These proposed laws have been drafted and forwarded by CCFJ for presentation to the Legislature.


If enacted, the proposed legislation will provide a clear understanding in regard to the operation of condominium business and the handling of corporate records, which would include requirement of a periodic audit of the corporate infrastructure.


Warm applause greeted State Representative Julio Robaina, Chair of the new House Select Committee on Condominium & Homeowner Governance. Representative Robaina gave the audience an overview of the responsibilities of this new committee that has subpoena power -- and will use it!  Representative Robaina offered his perspective on the needed reforms to community association statutes and emphasized the need for citizen participation in the legislative process. It is imperative that owners contact their local Florida State Senators and Representatives to ask the legislators to support owner-friendly association reform bills


David Kahne Jan Bergemann Julio Robaina Mark Benson


Robaina talked about dedication to reform community association statutes over the last five years and thanked the people in attendance for their role in pushing legislative reforms. Representative Robaina offered a legislative outlook on the issues raised, along with suggestions for resolutions by proposed legislation.


Barry Silver, Esq., a renowned attorney from Boca Raton , had successfully defended the Jupiter flagman, George Andres, and has a great reputation as a fighter for owners’ rights, especially from the constitutional side of the law.  Silver offered a suggestion that legislative sessions should begin with a prayer for the public rather than for legislators.  His experiences with dictatorial actions of 

association boards point out the need for a war for democracy right here in America , rather than in foreign countries. The protection of individual freedoms and choice must be maintained and retained by legislative reform, since owners can't afford the high cost of litigation in order to defend their rights.


Mark Benson presented proposed amendments to 468 Part VIII F.S. concerning licensure of Community Association Managers, as recommended by the Regulatory Council of Community Association Managers. It includes licensure of management companies, the removal of the small association exemption, clarifies that association members may serve on the Council, changes the Council to a Board, prohibits licensure of violators of licensing law, and creates improvement in education.


Shawn Boehringer, Esq. runs the Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Inc. and deals with liens and foreclosures, especially those involving elderly citizens. He talked about the necessity of revamping consumer protection against predatory practices of liens and foreclosures which especially hurt the elderly on a fixed income and low-income families who are being hit by outrageous legal bills for small amounts of unpaid dues. In order to strengthen consumer protection, Boehringer offered a rewrite of FS 718.116. The amendments to FS 718.116 would create some necessary protection, but wouldn't help deadbeats!


Mark Bogen, Esq., the Legal Columnist for the Sun-Sentinel in Broward County, talked about a very serious issue that has cost associations millions and millions of dollars: How to protect your condo from unscrupulous vendors. Mark created the BOGEN LIST, trying to help boards to find the right contractors -- contractors properly licensed and insured. Florida's associations have seen huge financial losses caused by fraudulent contractors. A free reference service like the BOGEN LIST can prevent these kinds of financial losses.

Beanie Adolph (TX), Founder of HOA Data and director of The Texas Homeowners for HOA Reform, Inc. offered the case of predatory lending and foreclosure practices in Texas as an example of what needs correction to the national situation. Let it be said -- the same issues are running rampant here in Florida . The concept of neighborliness is the ultimate issue for all Americans in HOAs. The problems of the HOA forces are too often completely opposite to the concept of being a good neighbor.

Shu Bartholomew (VA), the well-known Radio Host of "On The Commons" that has guests from all over the nation every Saturday at 2:00 PM, discussed the association issues sweeping our country. Since she talks with all kinds of people -- attorneys, managers and owners from both sides of the fence --  she sees what's going on nationwide. In short: The problem is all over the same and so far legislatures have made only a few attempts to protect owners from overbearing associations.

Joe Gorman, President of the Property Owners' Association of The Villages, Inc. in Central Florida, discussed the serious issue of "Community Development Districts -- The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." CDDs are another form of widely unregulated, but mandatory associations with many flaws. Gorman pointed out that there are now more than 350 CDDs in Florida with well over one million people currently living in these districts. CDDs are special taxing districts approved by the Florida Legislature in 1980 to encourage residential development. Developers sometimes abuse the concept by controlling governing boards and selling common property to these CDD boards at inflated prices.

Potential buyers are often not aware of the extra outrageous cost that has to be paid by the owner -- added to the property tax bill. Therefore, his biggest request to the Florida legislature:  Finally add much needed DISCLOSURE PROVISIONS to Florida Statutes 190. 

Maida Genser, President of Citizens for Pets in Condos, Inc., discussed the necessity of finally adding legislative regulations to allow EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS in mandatory associations. This demand is widely supported by the public, as shown by more than 17,000 signed petitions supporting this bill. These petitions were collected by volunteers -- an immense undertaking. Especially many of our elderly neighbors who have lost their life-long partners would very much benefit from this legislation. We are seeing too many expensive court battles fought over small animals -- court battles many of our neighbors in need cannot afford.


Dr. David I. Goldenberg, author of the book "How to Protect Your HOA or Cond-Dough" , discussed his ideas on How to Stimulate and Complement Legislative Change for HOAs and Condos. He suggests that communities amend the associations’ governing documents. His four letters for success: ORRA -- O for organize, R for recall your board, R for replace the ousted directors with good people, and A for amend your documents.


Speakers from the audience presented their views on how to help associations carry out their responsibilities.  A discussion period followed with comments and questions from the audience.

Because of time constraints Bergemann had to offer apologies to Jean Winters, Esq., Barbara Stage, Esq., Chandra Parker, Esq. and Inger Garcia, Esq., -- all attorneys who represent owners in their battles against associations. We will publish their presentations in written form on our website shortly! Sorry, but time is running fast when you have a good time!

Mark Stern from Playa del Mar and other audience members ask questions and present their reform proposals.


Representative Julio Robaina summarized his impressions about the conference and gave the owners in the audience and all over Florida a clear message: "Contact your local legislators! Let them know what you want and what you need! They need to hear from you!"


In closing words Bergemann appealed to the owners to unite and organize. Only in numbers is our strength since we will never be able to outspend the "industry" in Tallahassee.

Many of Florida's owners are afraid that they can no longer afford their homes.  Uncertainty about a person’s home and finances can be devastating to an individual as well as to the community and state in which we all live.

Real fixes for Property Tax and Property Insurance need to be enacted to revive our “dead” economy.  Admittedly, real fixes will require hard work!

Reforming the way our associations are regulated is an important issue. We need bills enacted that will finally stop the financial mismanagement, uncontrolled spending and even clear embezzlement! Many owners paid much higher special assessments to their associations than they paid for property insurance and property tax together!

Now start to help yourself by being part of the solution, not part of the problem!

Together we can achieve our goals.



It was refreshing to see that a four-hour program discussing the issues at hand could be interesting without talking about all the horror stories and without all the negativity that normally surround these town hall meetings. The hearings of the House Select Committee on Condominium & Homeowner Governance in Pembroke Pines and Miami Beach showed the desperate need to enact strong association bills -- with teeth -- to protect the welfare of Florida's homeowners and condo owners. 


The two-day event in Broward County was a very positive conference with very educational presentations, aimed to help understand the need for owners to be educated on the subject that deals with their HOMES!


Positive response to this conference has been overwhelming. During the week that followed this event, many persons have reported that they valued the knowledge gained here. Now we must all work hard to maintain the momentum generated by these frank discussions. 

FEBRUARY 2008 --- CCFJ, Inc. -- 1156 Tall Oaks Rd. -- DeLand, FL 32720