ASSOCIATION STATUTES HAVE NO TEETH!
BOARDS, ATTORNEYS AND JUDGES LAUGH ABOUT THE CONDO ACT
Opinion By Jan Bergemann
Published March 25, 2008
When an Englishman returns home next week from his Florida "Winter" vacation he sure has a story to tell, a story of owning a condominium in Florida -- and the way boards, attorneys and even judges make a joke out of the Florida Condo Act, especially the so-called record request provision in FS 718.111(12) -- OFFICIAL RECORDS.
But he may have a hard time making his countrymen believe that his story is true, especially that it happened in Florida, part of the Land Of The Free? If he had bought his condo in a Banana Republic, his "adventure" could have been expected, but Florida?
This rather ridiculous story has cost the Englishman so far about $500,000 -- believe it or not!
A Polk County judge, who was obviously more interested to protect his good ol' boy friends than the Florida statutes, denied Melvyn Hobbs a favorable ruling on six counts of obvious violations of the Condo Act. The judge's reasoning (quote): "Well you can't prove any harm so it doesn't matter."
Hobbs had to turn to the Second District Court of Appeals, where he finally got the ruling that should have been expected in the lower court, considering the wording of the Condo Act.
After reading the ruling of the Second District Court of Appeals, everybody thought that the PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR FEES AND COSTS filed November 5, 2007, would just be a formality.
But not so fast -- not in a Polk County court room. Judge James A. Yancey had a different view. On March 3, 2008 he filed an ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR FEES AND COSTS, much to the surprise of a lot of folks who had read the Appeals Court ruling. But as we all know, many attorneys seem to have problems with the phrase "PREVAILING PARTY", and it seems obvious that Judge Yancey is one of them!
But we all know the problems many people face in the court rooms of lower courts. Since most of these judges are former attorneys who chose to exchange a failed private law practice with the bench -- guarantees steady income -- they are as well eager to keep their job. And they think it helps to keep their former local colleagues happy by twisting the interpretation in their favor! Polk County has a reputation for that kind of behavior among judges. The good ol' boys network still seems to work perfectly!
On March 13, 2008, Christopher L. Griffin, attorney for the plaintiffs, filed a MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION AND/OR REHEARING, making the judge aware of the obvious mistakes in his ruling.
Otherwise -- back the Appeals Court with more money spent -- just to get financial records?
Condo owner Melvyn Hobbs even turned to the House Select Committee on Condominium and Homeowners Association Governance for help. At the meetings of the Committee in Orlando and Tallahassee he let the State Representatives know that he thinks that the system is totally flawed and fails to hold the people in charge accountable for their actions. No wonder if you are forced to spend nearly $500,000 to see the financial records of your association. Board members of the GRENELEFE ASSOCIATION OF CONDOMINIUM OWNERS NO. 1, INC. were invited to the Tallahassee meeting of the Committee to testify, but snubbed their noses at them and more or less told Chairman Julio Robaina that they will not cooperate with the committee, since it's anyway the committee's last meeting and then the committee will be dissolved.
The situation would be absolutely ridiculous -- if it wouldn't be so sad. Not only was an owner forced to spend that kind of money (REMEMBER: $500,000) to force the association to turn over the requested records, now it even seems that quite a few serious discrepancies have been found in the accounting records.
When this story reaches the European media, many folks there will think twice before investing in property in Fraud Friendly Florida since the sun in Spain may be as warm and the beaches as white as here in Florida -- only Spain has an obviously much more efficient justice system. That this story will hit Europe when the European currencies are strong, the dollar weaker than weak and the US economy down the drain, will make it even worse for Florida, especially because the real estate market needs European buyers -- the market of buyers from the USA is about dead!
Florida's government executives should be ashamed that this can happen in their State -- and it surely isn't good public relations, definitely not helping to revive Florida's ailing real estate market!