OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR CHARLIE CRIST

PLEASE VETO COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION BILL HB 433


 CYBER CITIZENS FOR JUSTICE, INC.

CCFJ, Inc. Headquarters

1156 Tall Oaks Road

DeLand, FL  32720-1225

Phone:  (386) 740-1503

E-Mail:  board@ccfj.net

Web Pages:  http://www.ccfj.net/

 

“From Justice As A Foundation All Rights Flow”

 

DELAND, May 9, 2007

 

PLEASE VETO COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION BILL HB 433/S 902

 

Dear Governor Charlie Crist,

 

With all due respect, I would like to ask you to veto the above bill for about the same reasons as Governor Bush vetoed it last year: Clear violation of private property rights. Actually, I write this letter asking to veto the bill on the same day as I wrote the letter to Governor Bush last year – and the reasons haven’t changed since the wording hasn’t really changed.

 

Revitalization of covenants of older communities may be a good idea, but since the opt-out provision in FS 720.407(5) has expired long ago, it will just create many more lawsuits. Many owners had moved into these communities on purpose to avoid associations. Therefore, they will not agree to be part of any association again. They bought their properties without deed restrictions and associations.

 

Revitalization without an opt-out clause is a clear violation of private property rights. A bill sponsored by Senator Fasano that attempted to achieve a similar goal was vetoed before, and the HOA Task Force in 2004 clearly defeated another attempt to force owners into associations without their agreement.  Revitalizing mandatory associations by using FS 720.403-407 -- enacted in 2004 -- turned out to be a disaster that created more legal fights in some associations instead of creating nice communities.  Result: Neighbors are not talking to neighbors any more! The only winners -- as usual: The specialized attorneys!

 

You heard the outcry about eminent domain: This "revitalization" is very similar on a smaller scale, because it will force owners to either go to court or agree to something they don't want!

 

The same bill attempts to remove a protection for homeowners against litigation that was enacted by the HOA Task force in 2004: Mandatory mediation. As a member of the HOA Task Force, I heard testimony from qualified individuals praising the advantages of mediation in order to avoid the numerous lawsuits regarding HOA issues that clog our court system.  This bill changes the requirement from mandatory mediation to an offer to participate in pre-suit mediation. Contrary to the efforts of the Supreme Court and the obvious benefits of alternative dispute resolution, qualified mediators not required to be lawyers are now being excluded from resolving community association issues.

  

Experience in the last two years has shown that non-lawyer mediators had not only a much higher success rate, but were as well much less expensive for all parties involved. This bill again allows lawyers to infuse their "Closed Shop" agenda into legislation. The mediation provision was created to achieve low-cost solutions for everyday issues in HOAs.

 

Since enforcement of existing statutes without any regulatory agency is anyway out of the financial reach of most homeowners, this removal of owners’ protection adds even more to the financial burden homeowners in associations already face!

 

It is anyway high time to create some sort of protection for homeowners living in mandatory associations. Are you aware that many owners paid much higher special assessments to their associations than property insurance and property tax together? We need to stop financial mismanagement, uncontrolled spending, and even clear embezzlement in these associations that were originally created to protect the welfare of property owners.

 

Many Floridians are very happy to see your serious attempts to rein in the high cost of living, created by outrageous insurance premiums and property tax. We were glad to see your support of Insurance Reform Bill H 1267 (Rep. Julio Robaina) and S 2498 (Senator Rudy Garcia) – two excellent consumer advocates! In our opinion, your personal engagement made it possible for this bill to achieve the necessary vote of approval in the Senate. What a shame that the House leadership destroyed all the good intentions of consumer protection!

 

Protecting homeowners in associations (estimated more than 2,3 million homes) by creating the necessary statutes would help homeowners immensely without reducing any government income or cost to taxpayers.

 

Even the AARP has realized the need to amend existing HOA statutes by publishing the

BILL of RIGHTS for HOMEOWNERS in ASSOCIATIONS – A Sample Model Statute.

(See: http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/consume/2006_15_homeowner.pdf ).

 

Many of the provisions of the AARP Model Statute were included in Community Association Bill     H 1373 (Rep. Julio Robaina) and S 2498 (Senator Alex Villalobos). But Speaker Marco Rubio, who worked for the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, didn’t allow this bill to really gain steam and had the most important issues killed before the first committee hearing!

 

HB 433/S 902 has many commendable features, even if most of them are unenforceable for homeowners due to outrageous litigation cost. But the revitalization provisions being a clear violation of private property rights and the removal of mediation requirements before litigation are two serious matters that only a veto of this bill can remedy!

 

With all due respect, I hereby ask you to veto this bill for the above listed reasons.

 

Warm Regards,

 

Jan Bergemann, President
Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.


MAY 9, 2007                                       CYBER CITIZENS FOR JUSTICE, INC.                                     PAGE 1 OF 1

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