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

Published July 17, 2010


Fifteen days after the changes to community association law caused by bill S 1196 became effective, no revised versions of the statutes are available. In short, Florida 's homeowners and condo owners living in mandatory community associations are supposed to obey laws that are not yet officially published or available to be read.


It's pathetic to expect citizens to follow laws they can't even read.


Governor Charlie Crist signed this bill into law on June 1, 2010. Is it too much to ask from our bureaucrats in Tallahassee to revise the statutes by adding the changes into the existing statutes within one (1) month? Admittedly, the bill contains 103 pages of bad language, but that's the language the governor signed into law and that's the changes we have to live with -- like it or not!

I have created an unofficial version of FS 718, FS 719 and FS 720, which still may have some flaws, but I can assure you it didn't take me a month. Computers are very handy if you want to add and/or delete language, using an existing document. But after looking at the finished product you can only wonder who actually authored these changes. Most likely a First-Year Law Student could have done a better job creating less legal problems than this bill that creates constitutional and legal challenges and in some provisions clearly disregards contract law. Why is contract law only quoted when it's to the detriment of owners? Owners always hear: "YOU SIGNED A CONTRACT!" Attorneys and legislators seem to think that they can change any contract at a whim!
S 1196 creates many great examples where existing contracts are plainly ignored.


And in case you call the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes for a written copy of the new law, you will be utterly disappointed. Folks who called got a variety of answers, even offering the possibility that the actual official new version will not be available until late August or even September. The advice they got: "Read the bill that was enacted!" But considering the variety of interpretations of the provisions by professionals, it really seems to ask too much from board members and owners to create their own version of the new laws. And if you read between the lines of the answers from the Division you may get the message that the folks in Tallahassee have finally discovered that the language for the provision that allows associations to collect unpaid dues from renters has serious flaws and may not be enforceable. Rumor has it that they are trying to fine-tune the language by creating some new rules for the Florida Administrative Code.


Already before the beginning of the legislative session we tried to get the attention of the people in charge, trying to make them aware that the language is wrong and will create nothing but problems.


But who wants to listen to some "stupid disgruntled" homeowners, when the people who wrote these provisions and pushed the bill as approved are high-priced specialized attorneys who write books and newspaper columns on these issues? 


Let's make it very clear: Many of the serious problems owners are facing daily in Florida's community associations are caused by the vague language written by these "experts." And this new bill is another great example that these attorneys are in it for the billing hours, not to create peaceful functioning communities. 


And that is exactly the reason why S 1196 was dubbed: 



But that leaves us with the unanswered question: How can you follow a law that is not available for view by the people supposed to obey it? If our bureaucrats in Tallahassee take forever to create the changes caused by a bill, legislators might consider that problem when they write the effective date at the bottom of the bill. Maybe January 1 of the next year might be a good solution -- considering the bureaucrats in Tallahassee are working at a snail's pace?