Opinion By Jan Bergemann
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.
April 22, 2010
hear so much about the "great" bill that is passing House and
Senate and will end up on the desk of Governor Charlie Crist a bill
that is touted as the salvation for many community association problems.
of the bill claim that "it has everything that community association
leaders and owners have been calling for."
have to disagree strongly with these statements. The serious problems
community associations and its owners face are caused by BUDGET
DEFICITS STEMMING FROM UNPAID DUES AND/OR FORECLOSURES. Every
discussion on bulletin boards and during the many town hall meetings ended
in complaints about financial distress owners are facing. Hugely increased
dues and/or special assessments create havoc among the owners.
nothing in this bill will really do anything to remedy this serious
problem. If you read the actual
wording of the bill, you will find that most of the provisions are
so-called feel-good measures. Some of the provisions will even increase
the cost of association living, increase the profits of the service
providers, increase the dictatorial power of association boards, and allow
board members to vote to pay themselves.
bill throws breadcrumbs to owners, who often don't understand the real
meaning of the wording used in this bill -- and who often blindly trust
the people behind this bill without finding the facts for themselves.
just take a look at some of the provisions that have been touted as great
reforms to help associations/owners deal with the disaster created by the
system of community associations. Here is an analysis of some of the great
"achievements" of this bill as stated in an article written by
Daniel Vasquez in the Sun Sentinel headlined: "Florida
condo bill headed to House vote."
and banks: "SB
1196 would require the banks pay more up to 12 months of past due
assessments the same amount required for bank-instigated
foreclosures in homeowner communities." Everybody involved in
the issue knows that the 2nd District Court of Appeals already turned
down these provisions in FS 720.3085 [See: Coral
Lakes Community Association, Inc. v. Busey Bank, N.A.]
This means that some poor
condo owners -- most likely located in the district of the 2nd DCA --
will be used as guinea pigs and will lose their shirts trying to use
this "legislative reform." Instead
of getting money, they will face huge legal bills.
bill would make it easier for bulk buyers of condos. Florida currently
deems anyone who purchases more than seven units in a condominium of
70 units or more or more than five in a condominium with less than
70 units a "developer." There is no protection for
condo owners in this provision. A bulk
buyer -- not deemed a developer any longer -- can buy sufficient units
to run the show and be the dictator as long as he wants. The problems
in so-called condo-hotels and or mixed use condos should have taught
us a lesson. Obviously
not! It only works for a
very limited number of condos anyway.
empower condo associations to bar delinquent owners from common areas,
such as clubhouses and pools."
Allowing boards and
neighbors to bar owners who are behind in their dues from using
common areas may make boards and neighbors feel better, may help with
frustration issues, but will not put any needed money in the
money from renters: "Allows associations to
collect rent money directly from tenants in units of owners in
arrears." That may help a little, but is not a real solution.
The language used in this provision is very complicated and may easily
be challenged in court. We have a renter's market in Florida. If a
renter feels harassed, he/she will move after not paying rent for two
months to recover the security deposit and the association will have
another unit not paying dues -- and will be stuck with the legal
safety upgrades: "Allows
associations of condo high rises to more easily postpone
state-required fire safety upgrades. Florida currently requires all
high-rise buildings 75-feet or higher to install fire sprinklers in
all common areas and individual units by 2014."
But that's not the only safety
provision that would be scratched: Also,
associations would be allowed to forego provisions for emergency power
supplies for elevators and would allow certain condos not to install
fire alarm systems. How about: Sprinkler systems save lives,
especially if the folks are elderly retirees who can't quickly run
downstairs and don't get early warnings because the fire alarm systems
were not installed? Or remember the many elderly folks who were stuck
in their condos for weeks when the elevators didn't function because
of power failure? These provisions have already caused two community association
bills to be vetoed [S714 (2009) Governor Charlie Crist; H391
(2006) Governor Jeb Bush]. What has changed since then? Does
protecting banks and/or mortgage companies now take priority over
lives, health and safety of condo owners?
are only the provisions the supporters of H561/S1196 mention as "REFORMS."
about all the bad provisions the supporters would rather not mention,
because they are afraid that some boards and owners will become opponents
when they figure out the downside of this bill?
fines levied by association kangaroo courts with liens and
foreclosures. Gives dictatorial boards a great tool to shut up
opponents who dare to criticize the board and/or manager.
of wording like any
monetary obligation due the association.
kind of language
opens the door to target again specific homeowners and condo owners,
because its vague and can be used for fines, legal fees, late fees
and other assessments that can be levied against specific owners only.
cost added by management companies for "preparation"
of public record requests. Requesting five pages of a past board
meeting can suddenly cost you $72.50! Bill language hides as well
certain important records from public view. What happened to TRANSPARENCY?
Recreational leaseholds; right to acquire;
escalation clauses. Courts turned
down the purchase of golf courses and the ability of boards to make
club membership mandatory. Many recent examples from all over Florida
show that golf courses are a safe bet to bankrupt associations and owners! Even
the PGA admits that interest in golf is fading fast and the cost of
maintaining golf courses is increasing quickly.
wording does exactly the opposite of what the headline promises. It
allows board members to compensate themselves by a simple vote to
change the bylaws.
more versions of BULK CONTRACTS. Bulk contracts are the reason
why owners have to pay for their neighbors who stopped paying. They
are the reason for increased dues and special assessments.
The bill adds even more versions of bulk contracts, which increases
the indebtedness of owners even more.
are just the ugly highlights of a bad bill!
bill is an obvious declaration of bankruptcy of the community association
system in Florida.
bill promotes feel-good provisions to make gullible homeowners and condo
owners believe that something is being done to help them. A wide majority
of provisions are actually band-aids trying to cover up the huge wounds
suffered by the crash of the real estate market. It further allows banks
and mortgage companies -- who caused the whole disaster by irresponsible
lending -- to escape liability for the damages they caused.
bill will actually do nothing to help the community association crisis in
Florida. If enacted, it will only scare away more retirees from moving to
Florida -- because there is no longer sunshine in The