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

Published June 14, 2010


People who want to call community association bill S1196 a RELIEF ACT should minimum be honest and call it "The Community Association Attorney Relief Act." Because that's what the bill really is -- and nobody can argue that away -- not even all the propaganda we see published in the media.


Everything else is just self-serving propaganda trying to hide that the bill fails to provide condominium owners and associations with much-needed financial relief. There is really no relief whatsoever for owners or associations in this bill. And everything praised as relief requires enforcement by an attorney, increasing the legal bills for the associations without increasing the associations' income.


The bill will definitely create lots of increased profits for attorneys. And it allowed the lending industry to get away with looking good by not conceding anything. 


If an amount is capped by two separate limitations, you don't need to be the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics to figure out that an amount only doubles if both limitations are doubled. If the amount due is limited to the lesser of 6 months or one percent (1%) of the original mortgage debt, you are not getting more if the one limitation is increased to 12 months, because in many cases the 1% cap was already lesser than 6 months. Let's not forget the folks in the million-dollar condos. They actually may strike luck getting more than 6 months of unpaid dues. But most of us are not that lucky!


Among other provisions S1196 is praised for the great reform allowing boards to suspend use rights for owners who are more than 90 days in arrears for any monetary obligation due to the association. Sounds great, but doesn't put any money in the coffers. 

And what does the board do if this evil person is using the pool anyway?

  • Beat him/her up? Lands you in jail!

  • Call the local police? Boards told them often enough that this is private property and they have no jurisdiction over association issues -- like embezzlement of funds!

  • Here is the really great idea: Have the association attorney write this violator a nasty letter informing him/her what you will do to this deadbeat if he/she uses the pool ever again. But please be prepared that this nasty violator will not pay for the cost of the attorney's letter-writing.

I nearly forgot to mention another great reform contained in the bill: Deadbeats can no longer serve on the board! Most of them have more serious problems than serving on the board anyway. The real bad guys -- the ones already serving on the board without paying their dues -- have plenty of opportunity to fix their payment record.


Here is the biggest financial relief of all: You don't have to retro-fit with sprinkler systems, can forego the installation of fire alarms and don't have to install generators for elevators. Man, what a relief! 


But look at the downside:

  • People in Hi-Rises can be killed or seriously injured due to the lack of a sprinkler system (like in a recent hi-rise fire in Boston).

  • Elderly neighbors can be held prisoners for weeks again if we get hit with a hurricane causing power failure like Hurricane Wilma did!

  • Outrageous property insurance premiums due to lack of modern fire safety equipment.

  • Property values going even further down. Who wants to buy a condo in an old building that lacks basic fire-safety systems?

By the way, the deadline for retrofitting was only December 2014. Many condos will not see this deadline, because the associations will be broke long before -- due to the fact that this "Condo Relief Act" will not bring any financial relief to the associations and/or owners!


When you open any newspaper you will find some article praising S1196 for all the reforms the attorneys behind this bill achieved. I get more and more the impression that these attorneys have to create lots of propaganda to make condo owners believe their Fairy Tales.


On Friday I found an article on the website of the Sun Sentinel headlined: "Condo Relief Act seen as 'step in right direction'." Quoted in the article, praising all the great achievements of the bill were Donna Berger (Katzman Garfinkel & Berger) and Robert Kaye (Kaye & Bender P.L.).  Beside the article was an advertisement for Becker & Poliakoff stating: "Florida Condo Lawyers --
Becker & Poliakoff represents more condos than any firm in Florida ."

These are most likely the folks that will profit most from the new community association "relief" bill -- a bill that will bring absolutely no relief to associations/owners, but will for sure fill the bank accounts of these law firms.


But there are still gullible condo owners who believe in the misleading propaganda of these law firms.


I couldn't summarize it better than attorney Eric Glazer (Glazer & Associates, P.A.) said it in his radio show CONDO CRAZE & HOA'S ( [Transcript]: "Make no mistake about it.  Here is exactly what happened in a nutshell:  Your legislators said to you ………  we won't take on the bank lobby.  We are going to concede to them 100%.  We are powerless to make them pay more.  We are also powerless to speed up the foreclosure process and make the banks move faster. But………………… an accommodation and favor to you…………………..we're going to allow you to save money, by not forcing you to install fire sprinklers and we'll allow you to put your own lives and the lives of firemen and policemen in danger.   Now say Thank You!"

I know, many condo owners don't want to hear the facts. They would rather run around with blinders on.  Or they don't want to admit that they blindly supported a bill, believing the propaganda of the law firms without checking the actual facts. 

Let's talk about it again in a year, when our media has published many more headlines like " Margate condo residents face eviction over unpaid water bill',” "Condo Complex Abandoned After Foreclosures Hit" and/or "Another community hit with emergency HOA fee." We can discuss S1196 again after even more good families have lost their homes.

Because that is exactly what is going to happen, since this bill will not bring any relief for our community associations and/or its owners.

For more detailed explanations for the problems -- and the total lack of relief -- please see the links below.