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

Published November 30, 2010


Here in Florida we homeowners and condo owners always hear from two very outspoken groups that call themselves Community Association Advocates: CAN [Community Advocacy Network (Law firm of Katzman Garfinkel & Berger)] and CALL [Community Association Leadership Lobby (Law firm of Becker & Poliakoff)]. Both organizations are run by law firms, nothing more than prolonged lobbying arms of the CAI [Community Associations Institute], the nationwide trade organization of the community association service providers that are making a fortune from the misery of millions of owners unlucky enough to have fallen for the false promises of the advantages of community association living!


These so-called advocacy groups are using board members, willing to join for various reasons, to bolster their credibility and use association dues to finance their lobbying efforts. Then they claim to represent millions of Florida's citizens. CAN states on its website: "CAN'S Advisory Council: Get to know the voice of over 1,000,000 Floridians."


That's really nothing but a joke. I bet that less than 1% of these 1,000,000 Floridians even know what CAN stands for, and a lot less of those 1% even know that their money is being used for lobbying efforts that are detrimental to their own interest. Many of the boards are hiding the facts that they are using association dues to pay for CAN or CALL lobbying efforts. They know they would have a revolution on their hands, if these owners were to find out that their money was used to lobby for S 1196 -- The Community Association Attorney Relief Act.


S 1196 -- a bill that combined bills from CAN  [H561 (Bogdanoff)] and CALL [S1196 (Fasano)] -- is a total failure and created nothing but confusion and billing hours for attorneys. The promised financial relief for associations under serious financial siege: NEXT TO NOTHING!


In short: The owners, whose money was used to pay for the lobbying of CAN and CALL paid for their own demise. And the glitch bills these "advocacy groups" are threatening to push through the next legislative session contain nothing but provisions that keep more things hidden from owners.  (Number One on the CALL wish list: "Allowing condo boards to meet in private to discuss personnel matters.") More secret business behind closed doors!


And just to make sure to improve association attorneys' income even more, Donna Berger, Executive Director of CAN, urged community associations on a recent radio show "WLRN's Topical Currents" to more aggressively pursue collections. Many associations have already experienced the results of aggressively pursuing foreclosure: Huge attorney bills, little money collected and units/homes that are a financial liability rather than anything to rent out or to make money from. In many cases, it's nothing else but throwing good money after bad.


Owners need laws that protect their homes in the midst of a financial crisis, not laws that create more income for attorneys and community association managers.


Let's make it very clear: These so-called Community Association Advocates are actually advocating only for their own wallets -- nothing else!


Fittingly for the long Thanksgiving weekend, Donna Berger posted an article on her Sun Sentinel blog headlined: What do you have to be thankful for in your association?


I can assure you, not one of the folks who called and/or e-mailed me over the Thanksgiving weekend agreed that there is really anything owners living in community associations should be thankful for. 


I posted as a comment some facts, clearly stating what is wrong with our community associations and why owners should not be thankful for being lured with false promises to buy into these associations.

  1. The system fails the owners and forces them to pay the dues for their neighbors who stopped paying.
  2. The system makes it possible for you to lose your home even if you pay your mortgage and all association dues.
  3. The fact that the attorney owned lobbying groups call themselves Community Association Advocates and only advocate for their own profits — see S 1196 — the Association Attorney Relief Act.
  4. The fact that attorneys claim that you live in an entity based on contract law ruled by the business judgment rule.
  5. That Florida is the SCAM Capital of the World and scams and embezzlement are very common occurrences in our community associations, with these lobbying groups opposing any protections against scams and embezzlement. 
  6. That greedy service providers created a system that resembles more a dictatorship than a housing community in the USA, once called “The Land Of The Free.”

By the way, in Europe, where community associations are illegal, waving and smiling is the default greeting everywhere, not just in a small percentage of community associations. And in Europe owners have no problems if their neighbor didn’t pay his/her mortgage or association dues. You might feel sorry for him/her, but it surely doesn’t affect your wallet!

So, be thankful if you could still afford a turkey — many others couldn't -- and if the increased association dues and special assessments -- much of the money ending up in the wallets of these "Advocacy Leaders" -- haven’t gobbled up your life savings!

Owners should never forget that these laws, which are now causing serious problems for owners, were created by these so-called Community Association Advocates like CAN and CALL -- and that the owners' money is being used to sway legislators to pass anti-owner bills.