|IT'S ALL ABOUT CONSUMER PROTECTION!|
Opinion By Jan Bergemann
Published March 4, 2014
The discussion about Pro and Con for adding mandatory homeowners' associations regulated by Florida statutes 720 to the jurisdiction of the Division of Florida Condominiums, Homeowners’ Associations, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes is again in full swing.
The main provisions of this bill: Creating consumer protection through the creation of a regulatory agency for homeowners' associations and HOA election reform -- much needed in the eyes of many homeowners living in HOAs.
Let's make no mistake: The Division as is has many flaws -- improvement is definitely needed -- but it is still a lot better than NOTHING -- and that's what these HOAs have in the moment: Nowhere to turn to, not even for simple questions.
Before getting into the actual discussion of pro and con, let's quickly take a look at the list what a Regulatory Agency with Ombudsman's Office would provide for HOAs:
Division of Florida Condominiums, Homeowners’ Associations, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes:
Office of the Community Association Ombudsman:
Over the years our organization helped to create many owner-friendly laws. Since the Florida legislature created FS 720 (formerly FS 617.301-312) in the year 2000 lots of provisions -- good and bad -- have been added. But owners still run into boards, CAMs and attorneys who plainly tell them: "Yes, you are right! But you just don’t have the money to force us to obey by these new laws!"
Should only owners with lots of money -- able to afford costly court litigation -- have the privilege of being protected by the existing laws? Wouldn't that mean that FS 720 only provides protection for owners with lots of money to spare?
Everybody knows the old saying: "The best laws are only working if these laws can be easily enforced!"
And that is in the moment definitely not the case with the laws of FS 720. Creating a regulatory agency is not about creating "more government" -- it's all about consumer protection.
We hear already certain people screaming: "It creates more government, added cost and is preventing access to courts" -- and the list goes on!
But take a look at who these folks opposing the creation of the Division of Florida Condominiums, Homeowners’ Associations, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes really are: Folks who are afraid that the existing laws could be easily enforced -- taking away dictatorial powers from these people -- and service providers who are afraid that easy enforcement of the laws would lower their profits.
Honestly, would it be so bad if the existing laws really serve the purpose of creating enforceable rules in these communities?
Take a look at the services (see above) such a "regulatory agency" would provide. Then take a look at the budget line "Legal Expenses" of your HOA. Do you know how much of your money is being spent just to get simple answers to simple questions -- answers that may even be wrong since they reflect the private opinion of your association attorney and not the official interpretation of a government agency?
In my opinion paying $4 annually to finance such an agency is a steal considering al the services you get for this low price considered in this bill.
And if all goes well legislators already consider lowering the cost to $2 annually for all the different associations regulated by the Division. That would make it an even bigger steal. Make no mistake, even with $2 annually the State of Florida could still finance a Cadillac among government agencies.
So, before you listen to all these folks trying to tell you to oppose this bill, think twice what you love more: A more peaceful community caused by easy enforcement of existing laws -- or the status quo where powers to be are ignoring the laws telling you that you don't have the money to enforce these laws.
Is that what you want to support by opposing the bill?