ANALYSIS OF HOUSE BILL H 27 -- Representative Kevin Ambler

Proposed Changes to FS 720 -- Homeowners' Associations

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

Published March 15, 2009


With all due respect, but this is the worst bill that has been filed in regards to mandatory homeowners’ associations in the last few years. And I honestly have to wonder about the motives of Representative Ambler to file this bill. He was last year a member of the House Select Committee and heard the testimony and complaints from owners all over the state. This bill would just achieve the opposite of what all these owners were asking for. 


It will put HOA statutes back in the "Dark Ages", in the times before Governor Jeb Bush's HOA TASK FORCE and Senator Jeff Atwater's bill S 1184. This bill was a huge step in the right direction, unlike H 27, which would seriously turn back the clock on progress!


The so-called Home Court Advantage Dispute Resolution Act should quickly be renamed into Attorney Full Employment Act. Everybody dealing with these issues knows that FS 720.311 – Pre-Suit Mediation – was a total failure. H 27 even wants to add non-binding arbitration – adding even more cost to the already outrageously expensive process. And the arbitrators will not be mediators knowledgeable in HOA issues. HOA statutes are very specialized issues. Many judges and attorneys are not very familiar with its provisions. Pre-suit mediation had a very low success rate. Mediation only works if all parties come to the table in good faith. That’s often not the case in HOA disputes. Since families’ homes are at stake, fights are very emotional and attorneys often abuse this process to keep the billing clock ticking.


In short: Anything but a regulatory agency with enforcement power will only cost homeowners more money. Money they don’t have any more. Please consider our economy.

The failed system of pre-suit mediation has already cost Florida ’s homeowners lots of money – and it totally failed the purpose! Don’t use Florida ’s homeowners as a guinea pig for another “grand idea” that is doomed to failure!


Some other “Highlights” of the bill:



Line 331 – 333: costs involving personnel fees and charges at an hourly rate for  employee time to cover administrative costs to the association. 

This sentence would allow a board or a manager to charge easily $50 for 2 pages of minutes. This will stop every owner from demanding records! It’s cost prohibitive! The hearings of the Select Committee showed that easy access to records is one of the most important issues!


FS 720.303(12) While the headline of this provision says one thing: (12)  COMPENSATION PROHIBITED, the language later opens the door for outrageous abuse: Line 494-495: (d)  Any fee or compensation authorized in the governing documents. Since bylaws can be changed by simple vote of the board, any board could legally reward themselves with a huge compensation – totally legal according to this bill proposal!


And here is the opening for dictatorial abuse:
FS 720.305(2) Line 512-513 A fine of less than $1,000 may shall not become a lien against a parcel.

Any fine levied – right or wrong -- for $1,000 or more can be enforced by lien and foreclosure according to this amendment. Board really doesn't like the homeowner? They fine the owner twice and lien and foreclose if the fine isn't paid in a heartbeatr. We heard lots of these stories during the meetings of the HOA Task Force. The HOA bill that was prepared by Governor Jeb Bush’s HOA Task Force (I was a member) in 2004 eliminated liens and foreclosures as enforcement tool for two reasons:

1,) The members of the HOA Task Force were presented with lots of proof that this “privilege” was seriously abused by dictatorial boards and managers. We heard real horror stories – well documented.

2.) A HOA is not a government entity. Our Constitution only allows government entities to fine its citizens. Two State Supreme Courts (VA + RI) have already ruled that fining by associations is unconstitutional.

Condo law (FS 718) also disallows enforcement of fines through liens and foreclosures.


These are just some of the "Highlights" of this bill. Some of these provisions are actually giving bad board members a license to steal.


Honestly, even amendments can’t make this bill any better. If this bill would be enacted, we would see even more dictatorial abuse in these homeowners’ associations than we have right now!


This bill is totally ill-advised and should be quickly discarded!