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

Published August 21, 2012

At a seminar at the PM-Expo in Orlando on August 15, 2012 I made it very clear: If we don't create more FAIRNESS in Florida 's community associations, we will have to deal in the near future with even more empty homes and condos than there are now. Who in his right mind wants to buy into a community association, if the media headlines talk about fraud and scams in these community associations? Who wants to risk his/her life savings, if you can lose it all because neighbors stop paying their assessments?


Three main parties have an interest in the daily business of community associations: Owners, attorneys and community association managers (CAMs) -- but the only party with a VESTED INTEREST is the OWNERS. Make no mistake: Owners include the board members, even if some board members think that's not the case. In the end board members pay the same price as all the other owners in the community!


The interests of these three groups differ widely. In my opinion, and that of many other informed folks, each group should lobby for itself. These three groups have actually very opposing interests. Latest this yearís legislative session must have made it clear to everybody involved. Board members and owners who initially supported H319, -- the bill that was pushed by the attorney lobbying groups CAN (Katzman Garfinkel Berger) and CALL (Becker & Poliakoff) -- suddenly faced the fact that these attorneys supported the strengthening of the SAFE HARBOR provisions, which are totally opposite to the interest of associations/owners.

The excuse of the attorneys behind the bill was disingenuous: Protecting associations from legal bills? Letís face it, all the bills that passed in the last few years in Tallahassee did nothing but increase the legal bills for associations. Do you honestly believe that people would buy a home/condo, if they were told that they would be responsible for paying the dues of the neighbors who stopped paying dues?  Or that banks are protected against liabilities caused by banks with their ill-advised lending policies? No doubt: That's anything but FAIR!

Look at the example of CAMs: For years they lobbied together with the attorneys against the interests of the associations/owners with lobbying groups named CAI (Community Associations Institute), CALL and CAN. Now the CAMs are being betrayed by their former allies who are seriously working to make their profession obsolete. If all the issues listed on the wish list of certain attorneys are declared to be Unlicensed Practice of Law (UPL), a low-paid secretary can do whatís left. Why should associations even hire a CAM , if most of the work done by CAMs nowadays has to be done by an attorney? And board members/owners should pay attention: If the attorneys get their wish, the cost of running a community association will increase even further and will increase the monthly dues by a wide margin.

If you buy a FORD, would you join a lobbying group that fights to protect Ford Motor Company against liabilities from warranties? But thatís exactly what CAMs, board members and owners do when they are supporting the lobbying groups named CAI, CAN or CALL! All three groups clearly have opposing interests.

If we donít create FAIRNESS IN ASSOCIATIONS, we will reach one day the point where nobody wants to buy into a community association any more. Already today realtors are complaining that many potential home buyers state from starters: "I am looking for a home, but not one located in a homeowners' association."

In my opinion the service providers are killing their golden cash cow by creating bills that burden owners with even higher maintenance dues. Thatís why we need to enact laws to level the playing field in community associations. And thatís why every interest group should lobby for itself. Because whatís good for one group may not be good for the other two groups Ė and vice versa.