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

Published July 30, 2010


What did Florida's homeowners and condo owners do to deserve to be punished by incompetent legislators and professionals who can't write bills -- and other professionals who can't read the  statutes?


I didn't pass the BAR exam and I wasn't elected to public office in Tallahassee, but I went to school. And by the time I was in second grade, teachers had already explained to me what the word "FUTURE" means.


Community association bill S1196 is a typical example:  Not even in times of serious need can associations/owners rely on the help of legislators and the professionals, who plainly view them as cash cows. 


We heard legislators like Ellyn Bogdanoff, Mike Fasano, Maria Sachs and Jeremy Ring praising the bill, claiming all the great reforms contained in the bill would help associations/owners deal with the main problem: Budget deficits caused by unpaid dues and/or foreclosures.


Nothing could be further from the truth. The bill is a total disaster.


And some of the so-called professionals could barely wait until July 1 to show their incompetence.


Here are some great examples:

  • In a condo in Broward the guards stopped every renter and handed him/her a demand letter to pay the rent to the association, since the landlord failed to pay the maintenance dues. And until all is paid in full the renter can't use the amenities any more. Great way to ask the renter to move!

  • A management company in Central Florida made the following proposal to its associations: We write the initial demand letter (one-time charge $100) and charge for every payment received $50 processing fee. I know that one of the homeowners' associations involved charges $80 monthly. According to the law, the renter pays the $80 to the association, but the association only gets $30. If the associations agree, this provision from S1196 will really create lots of financial relief to the management company -- if the renter really pays.

  • Another management company located in Broward County -- not to be outdone -- volunteered as the collection agency and demanded 15% of all payments received as collection fee.

  • A management firm from St. Augustine sent this info to homeowners: "Effective July 15, 2010 your Homeowners' Association will implement the following: At 91 days of past due assessment, access cards will be de-programmed. No access to the pools, clubhouse, or health facility will be allowed. Entry to the community will be by key and entry only. At 91days of past due assessments, Comcast will be instructed to disconnect cable service to the unit. Also, if your unit is rented, your tenants will be notified that future rents must be paid to the Association." Homeowners, who sent me a copy of this letter, stated that to their knowledge no public board meeting took place where the mailing of this letter was approved by vote of the board.

  • Another homeowners' association sent out demand letters informing renters that their landlord owes them XX amount of dollars and if the renter doesn't turn the rent payments over to the association the association will sue for eviction under ss. 83.59-83.625  -- and, of course, no use of amenities until the landlord's debt is paid in full. It looks like the person who wrote this letter didn't make himself familiar with the new version of FS 720.3085(8) and the word "FUTURE."

We are just getting started -- the first attorney letters are just being exchanged and the lawsuits are still in a development stage -- considering the new law isn't even effective for a whole month. But I can say one thing for sure: This is another provision that will do more harm then good. CCFJ warned about the wording of this provision from Day One -- but who wants to listen to some folks who are considered disgruntled owners by the expert specialized professionals?


Some of the attorneys from the law firms who pushed the bill are trying to do damage control by coming up with flimsy explanations in their columns. No matter what, the word "FUTURE" can't be explained away. 


By the way, I'm already looking forward to the same attorneys explaining the amended language in FS 720.305(2) -- Fining in homeowners' associations. That will be very interesting!


But the wording of S 1196 shows again that our expert professionals and legislators are best at what they do best:  Making Fools Of Themselves!


FS 720.3085(8)  If the parcel is occupied by a tenant and the parcel owner is delinquent in paying any monetary obligation due to the association, the association may demand that the tenant pay to the association the future monetary obligations related to the parcel. The demand is continuing in nature, and upon demand, the tenant must continue to pay the monetary obligations until the association releases the tenant or the tenant discontinues tenancy in the parcel. A tenant who acts in good faith in response to a written demand from an association is immune from any claim from the parcel owner.

(a) If the tenant prepaid rent to the parcel owner before receiving the demand from the association and provides written evidence of paying the rent to the association within 14 days after receiving the demand, the tenant shall receive credit for the prepaid rent for the applicable period and must make any subsequent rental payments to the association to be credited against the monetary obligations of the parcel owner to the association. The association shall, upon request, provide the tenant with written receipts for payments made. The association shall mail written notice to the parcel owner of the associationís demand that the tenant pay monetary obligations to the association.

(b) The tenant is not liable for increases in the amount of the monetary obligations due unless the tenant was notified in writing of the increase at least 10 days before the date on which the rent is due. The tenant shall be given a credit against rents due to the parcel owner in the amount of assessments paid to the association. 

(c) The association may issue notices under s. 83.56 and may sue for eviction under ss. 83.59-83.625 as if the association were a landlord under part II of chapter 83 if the tenant fails to pay a monetary obligation. However, the association is not otherwise considered a landlord under chapter 83 and specifically has no duties under s. 83.51.

(d) The tenant does not, by virtue of payment of monetary obligations, have any of the rights of a parcel owner to vote in any election or to examine the books and records of the association.

(e) A court may supersede the effect of this subsection by appointing a receiver.


[ The same language is in FS 718.116(11) and FS 719.108(10) ]