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

Published March 26, 2011


I am not sure if all the members of Florida's community associations realized that they dodged a bullet when the provisions in House Bill H 5005 regarding the removal of license requirements for community association managers (CAMs) and all wording regarding dissolving the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes and the Condo Ombudsman's Office were removed. It showed that a -- more or less -- united approach can sway legislators to do the right thing.


LESSON NUMBER ONE goes to association board members and owners, who should no longer have a problem to separate friends from foes, meaning groups and organizations that lobby for favorable association laws -- and groups that lobby for more profits for service providers. After the battle against Deregulation Bill H 5005 it's not very difficult to pick out who is who. All the more or less known groups dealing with community associations and managers were very outspoken in opposition to H 5005. Lead by CCFJ, CAN and many other local organizations and coalitions, advocates spoke out against this horrendous bill that would have destroyed what little protection there was left for community associations and their owners.


One group was suspiciously absent from this public relations battle trying to convince legislators that the community association provisions had to be removed. CALL (Community Association Leadership Lobby) -- the lobbying group of Becker & Poliakoff -- was nowhere to be seen or heard in the forefront of the battle against this bill. CALL's regular bloggers and columnists wrote about pool and spa safety requirements, landscaping rules, replacement of wiring due to Chinese drywall and multicondominium financial issues, at a time when associations/owners needed every voice to avoid disaster -- disaster that was imminent if the bill had been enacted. At the first committee stop of PCB BCAS 11-01 Gary Poliakoff's troops (Moore, Muller etc.) were nowhere to be seen or heard opposing this horrendous bill. But in a blog in the Sun Sentinel dated March 24, 2011 Gary Poliakoff wants to take credit for defeating these dangerous provisions. In my opinion, plainly pathetic!


Here are the facts -- come to your own conclusion: Gary Poliakoff wrote an e-mail on Monday, March 21, 2011 3:47 PM saying: “I just returned from an extended vacation in Australia , Bali, and Hong Kong . Let me see what I can do. My initial thought is to agree with the deregulation of managers and elimination of arbitration.” (This was not a client-attorney privileged e-mail.) Pretty obvious that he agrees with the provisions in the bill we all fought so hard to defeat, no matter what he says after the bill was defeated. On Tuesday afternoon the changed language was already posted on the website of the House Committee on Economic Affairs (AMENDED H 5005). That means that within 24 hours Poliakoff changed his mind, successfully fought the bad bill and had the bill totally rewritten -- all within 24 hours? A miracle worker OR somebody who is claiming undue credit? Just think about it.

On the other hand, CALL tries to push S530, a bill they are calling a glitch bill for the totally ill-advised S1196 from last year. This bill follows the same pattern: Increase the profits for service providers to the detriment of associations and owners! Considering the economic problems many of our community associations now face, this is really the last thing we need.


Here is what I think about the lobbying efforts of CALL and the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff P.A.: They claim to lobby for association-friendly legislation, but all their efforts in Tallahassee are actually aimed at increasing billing hours — see S530 and last year’s S1196. They have every right to lobby for whatever they want, but they shouldn’t try to mislead the public about their real motives! How can a law firm and its lobbying group even claim to lobby for associations if a big part of the firm’s income comes from representing developers?


LESSON NUMBER TWO goes to the DBPR employees of the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes and the Condo Ombudsman's Office and the employees working in CAM LICENSING/REGULATION. 


During the discussion about H5005 many of our members and supporters were saying: Why are we fighting this bill? The Division is pretty useless and its employees are not doing what they are being paid to do. Wouldn't we be better off without the Division?

For now this bill and the contained provisions have been defeated, but even the filing of such a bill has put the DIVISION and CAM Regulation on probation. Next time such a bill comes up, most likely fewer people will be willing to fight against such provisions, if the DBPR's way of doing business doesn't change. We don't need folks in a regulatory agency wasting our dollars just waiting for the next weekend! Most folks who contacted me were not complaining about the system, but about the executive staff that for many years has chosen to do NOTHING. Many attorneys, CAMs, board members and owners feel that the Division is pretty useless. The necessary laws are in place, but the executives of the Division fail to use them.

But there is hope on the horizon: For the first time in recent history a governor didn't make a politically motivated appointment as Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Governor Rick Scott has appointed Ken Lawson, a former U.S. Treasury Department investigator, as the new DBPR Secretary. Hopefully, Lawson will clean up shop unlike the many DBPR secretaries before him, who were all political appointees unwilling to change the "DO NOTHING" attitude.

Let's see if the new DBPR Secretary really means business. Lawson surely has the necessary background! Maybe he will take the time to listen to the people that have to deal with the Division and CAM regulation employees on a daily basis. Maybe he will make the necessary changes to create an effective regulation tool. That is what Florida really needs!


This bill was a warning to all the DBPR employees: You are on probation! A similar bill may pop up again, if the new Secretary fails to correct the many problems and doesn't remove some of the pretty useless Division executives.




In the moment Florida's homeowners and condo owners have another pressing issue: DEFEAT the so-called GLITCH BILL S 530, pushed by CALL and attorney Peter Dunbar. It's another horrendous bill that will do nothing but increase the costs for owners. 



The Senate Committee on Community Affairs will hear on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. in the Pat Thomas Committee Room, 412 Knott Building the above bill. This bill will create more lawsuits and billing hours. If senators want to help some "obviously needy" attorneys like Peter Dunbar and Gary Poliakoff, they really should vote YES on this ill-advised bill. This bill will, like last year's S1196, create nothing but more confusion and legal fees. It looks like this is exactly what the sponsors have in mind!


But if senators want to help associations and its members, they should vote to KILL S530 -- owners have enough problems in their communities -- and revive Senator Jeremy Ring's bill S1516 in its original version, a bill that would really help the constituents deal with the economic disaster. I honestly cannot understand how somebody -- other than dictators -- can be against FAIR ELECTIONS in HOAs and oppose a provision that would require insurance companies to inform all owners if a property insurance policy is cancelled for non-payment. We had two cases recently where the owners lost all their life-savings because boards took it upon themselves to stop paying the premium. Is that what Florida stands for?


Please contact the committee members and ask them to VOTE NO on this bill that will do nothing but create more billing hours for attorneys!


If you contact the legislators, please write in the subject line: