OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR CHARLIE CRIST

PLEASE VETO COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION BILL H 679


 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 10, 2008

Please Veto COMMUNITY Association Bill H 679

Dear Governor Charlie Crist,

   

With all due respect, I would like to ask you to veto the above bill for a variety of reasons:

   

1.)  If the provisions of the bill are added to the existing FS 720, it creates two contradicting versions of dealing with FS 720-303(11) – Recall of Directors. 

  

H 679 provides for the following legal solution for recall disputes:

858          (3)  All disputes arising after the effective date of this

859     part involving the election of the board of directors for an

860     association or the recall of any member of the board or officer

861     of the association shall not be eligible for presuit mediation

862     under s. 720.505, but shall be subject to the provisions

863     concerning presuit arbitration under s. 720.507.


Existing FS 720.303(11) calls in detail for arbitration conducted by the DBPR, which has been a very effective, low-cost solution -- one of the few provisions that actually provides relief for homeowners in FS 720 without creating huge legal fees.
(d)  If the board determines not to certify the written agreement or written ballots to recall a director or directors of the board or does not certify the recall by a vote at a meeting, the board shall, within 5 full business days after the meeting, file with the department a petition for binding arbitration pursuant to the applicable procedures in ss. 718.112(2)(j) and 718.1255 and the rules adopted thereunder. For the purposes of this section, the members who voted at the meeting or who executed the agreement in writing shall constitute one party under the petition for arbitration. If the arbitrator certifies the recall as to any director or directors of the board, the recall will be effective upon mailing of the final order of arbitration to the association. The director or directors so recalled shall deliver to the board any and all records of the association in their possession within 5 full business days after the effective date of the recall.

  

There is no provision in H 679 to repeal the original version quoted above.

    

2.)  H 679, if signed into law, changes language in FS 718.112 (d), which was newly created by H 995, the Condo Bill you just signed into law on May 1, 2008. H 679 changes the requirement to provide the signed education qualification certificate from the time of candidacy to the time after the election. This seriously alters the actual intent created by H 995 – already signed into law.

        

Proof of qualification as a director should be shown before the election, not after the election. If a candidate is elected and fails to provide the required proof, the director has to be removed from office – possibly disenfranchising the membership, because now the board majority – not the membership – “elects” a new director of their choice! This is a significant change to the intent of H 995. Disenfranchising the membership should definitely not be encouraged by our laws.

 

3.)  The provisions created by H 679 are confusing. The mediation/arbitration provisions are convoluted, difficult to understand and plainly complicate the whole already non-functioning process. This is the third complete rewrite of mediation/arbitration provisions in FS 720, since it was first established by the HOA Task Force Bill in 2004.  I was a member of the HOA Task Force and predicted the failure of the mediation provisions.  But, since only 3 out of the 15 members of the Task Force were homeowners; we were clearly outvoted.

 

None of the enacted mediation provisions has ever worked, other than creating outrageous legal bills for associations and owners.  The provisions created by H 679 will only add to the confusion and cost.

 

Homeowners have seen changes in FS 720 each year since 2004, often repealing what was created the year before.  Again, this bill creates lien and foreclosure provisions for fines without court protection. State Supreme Courts in other states have already ruled fine provisions unconstitutional. Removal of lien and foreclosure provisions for fines was one of the main achievements of the HOA Task Force in 2004, undisputed because of the many abuses the members of the Task Force heard at the public meetings. There was not even an argument against removing this dangerous and abusive provision during the Task Force meetings.

 

H 679 does absolutely nothing to remedy the many problems the House Select Committee members had to listen to during their five meetings this spring.  In addition, this bill partially contradicts the findings of the Select Committee.

 

Chairman Julio Robaina and Senator Alex Villalobos sponsored an excellent condominium bill that has the approval of all parties involved.  Representative Julio Robaina has pledged to work with the members of his Select Committee, the newly created Community Association Living Study Advisory Council (H 995) and all interested parties on a homeowners’ association reform bill, which will hopefully create solutions for the many problems homeowners living in associations are facing!

 

Chairman Julio Robaina did an excellent job creating the Condo Reform Bill.  Why not give him the chance to do the same for the estimated more than 2.4 million families living in Florida's mandatory homeowners’ associations?  Enacting H 679 would only complicate Representative Robaina’s task!

 

In a time where owners are already financially overburdened with increased assessments, many foreclosed homes not paying assessments in their neighborhoods, and steadily increasing legal fees and management costs, Community Association Bill H 679 would do a lot of damage to the financial welfare of Florida’s homeowners, already under serious financial pressure caused by high property taxes and high property insurance premiums.

 

Please let us wait another year to create a homeowners’ association reform bill that will achieve the same kind of consensus as the highly praised Condo Reform Bill H 995.

 

With all due respect, I hereby ask you to veto Bill H 679 for the above listed reasons.

 

Warm Regards,

 

Jan Bergemann, President
Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.


MAY 10, 2008                                       CYBER CITIZENS FOR JUSTICE, INC.                                   PLEASE VETO H 679 LETTER

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