GLITCH BILLS – OR THE WORK OF GREEDY ATTORNEYS?
Opinion By Jan Bergemann
Published November 18, 2017
Remember how many condo owners celebrated on July 1 of this year? The so-called “CONDO CRIME BILL” enacted by the legislature took effect on this day. It contained many owner-friendly provisions intended on reducing the crime and financial misconduct in many of Florida’s condo associations.
We knew that the wording of the bill (HB1237) wasn’t all perfect – and every knowledgeable person had to admit that the bill was written more with the heart than with legal expertise. Everybody went home knowing that some changes to the wording – especially regarding the recall language -- had to be made during the next legislative session.
We all knew that the so-called specialized attorneys didn’t like the bill at all because many of them make their money by protecting the “bad” guys instead of working for the benefit of all owners of the community.
But when I saw the “GLITCH BILLS” presented to members of the Florida Bar Condominium & Planned Development Committee on November 3, 2017 at the Boca Raton Resort by William Sklar, the former co-chair of the HOA Task Force, and Steve Mezer, now Becker & Poliakoff. I could only shake my head in disbelief. The presented “glitch bills” are in my opinion a brazen attempt to completely destroy the intent of the Condo Reform Bill (HB 1237).
The proposed “glitch bills” are a lot more than just glitch bills. It more or less completely changes the provisions of the enacted bill and puts provisions in place that are even worse than the provisions in place before HB 1237 took effect.
Please take a look at the draft of the “GLITCH BILLS” proposed by the BAR Committee. In my opinion it’s an absolute ridiculous attempt to remove all the progress made by condo owners’ advocates to reduce crime and malfeasance from Florida’s condominiums.
As much as I can understand that these attorneys are in it for the money – and in my opinion definitely not for justice – I think it’s outrageous when these attorneys are trying to remove – or water down -- the criminal charges from FS 718 (See GLITCH BILL CONFLICTS & CRIMINAL). As “officers of the court” – as they like to be called -- they should have the obligation to make sure that the bad guys are brought to justice. But this is all about money: Since they, as association attorneys, can’t represent board members brought up on criminal charges, they lose a client – a client that would most likely continue to make them lots of money.
Or look at the argument that the same attorney could continue to represent association and management firm at the same time. No matter what these attorneys argue: IT WILL ALWAYS BE A CONFLICT OF INTEREST – starting with the initial contract between association and management firm.
These are just a few topics dealt with in the glitch bills. There is a lot more these attorneys want changed. And believe: None of the proposed changes would be favorable for the unit-owners.
Even worse is the language they propose for “correcting” the recall language (RECALL GLITCH BILL) in FS 718. Not only do they more or less want to reinstate the former language, now they even want the unit-owners to do the arbitration filing if the board rejects the recall – for whatever reasons. We have seen in the past that boards rejected perfectly good recalls just in order to allow the board for some more months to continue with the same issues the recall was aimed at. I know these attorneys don’t like the recall of directors (these attorneys lost lots of clients through recall) but even suggesting that the Owners Voting-For-Recall should carry the burden of the legal procedures – and cost -- shows me exactly where these attorneys are coming from.
I can only hope that our Florida Legislature will not even listen to the nonsense proposed as glitch bills by the Florida Bar Condominium & Planned Development Committee.
Yes, more changes are desperately needed for FS 718, 719 and 720. But the changes need to be owner-friendly – and not aimed at making more money for greedy attorneys!