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

Published July 6, 2010

After the big praise, claiming that the new community association bill S 1196 would double the liability of banks for unpaid dues to condo associations, turned out to be a hoax, the sponsors of S1196 are really getting desperate trying to sell their "achievements" to Florida's homeowners and condo owners. Too many folks, even the Kumbaya singers, have realized that changing liability from 6 months to 12 months, but leaving the 1% cap on place, is not giving associations another dime!

Now that the first attempt of the sponsors -- CALL and CAN – failed to convince the owners what a great bill they were able to enact in the legislature, a second wave of propaganda is flooding the media. 

The newest headlines:

v             New law makes it easy to collect unpaid dues from renters (FOX 35 Orlando)

v             New law can make renters pay homeowner-association fees ( Orlando Sentinel)

v             Deadbeat homeowners, tenants forced to pay up (News-Press)


Gee, wouldn't it be nice if it all would be that easy? BUT IT IS NOT EASY AT ALL!


Works fine if the renter responds to the initial demand letter by sending a check. But if not, the association is in serious trouble. Not only creates the language issues that will most likely lead to legal challenges, it plainly ignores the facts of daily life -- and what is really going on in our community associations.


Florida's economy is horrible, the real estate market even worse. The published feel-good numbers claim recovery, but that claim is bogus. Add all this up and it creates a renter's market, with more great offers to rent than ever before. One place nicer than the one before -- and rent much lower than ever before in the last 15 years!


Could somebody please give me one good reason why a renter in his/her right mind should suffer through the harassment of threatening letters sent by the association attorney, by a landlord who is upset about not getting his rent and neighbors who are mad at him/her because the landlord doesn't pay the dues? 

Don't forget, everybody is dumping on the party least guilty for all the mess: The RENTER!

Every renter in his/her right mind knows that a landlord who is not paying the association dues is as well not making the mortgage payments -- meaning it's just a matter of time until the property will be foreclosed upon and the renter unceremoniously kicked out.

What prevents a renter to stop paying at all for two months to recover the deposit (first and last months' rent) and then move on to much greener pastures?  At a new place the renter will be allowed to use the pool and other amenities without being harassed by neighbors and/or getting nasty attorney letters.

I don't want to discuss the much likely possibility of lawsuits being filed, challenging the validity of this law in the first place. I just look at the simple matter of a renter moving out as described above -- the only answer that makes sense for the renter.

The association didn't collect one dime -- despite the above headlines -- the unit/home is empty, the actual owner lost all chances to prevent the foreclosure -- and the association is looking at another legal bill caused by the attempt to enforce this “great new law.” 

Or do you think that all these specialized attorneys will forgive the cost for the attempt to collect unpaid dues from a renter because they pushed for this "helpful" bill?


By the way, the attorneys themselves know that they created a monster -- just look at the fine print.  Read the article headlined, "New law can make renters pay homeowner-association fees." David G. Muller, Co Director of the Community Association Leadership Lobby (CALL) explains (quote): "For starters, it's not entirely clear how much of a rental's delinquent-fee bill a tenant will be expected to pay. And many associations may have trouble assessing tenants, because no one necessarily tracks which properties in a community or complex are rentals, who is renting them and how much they are paying. There are some questions about exactly how this is going to work. The good news about this is that it's going to give associations another mechanism to get paid on these unpaid assessments. But it does provide a host of questions, with issues not addressed in the statutes, and it will invariably be challenged in the courts."


And that's exactly what will happen. These attorneys knew it and pushed the bill anyway. Not to help associations deal with the financial crisis caused by unpaid dues and/or foreclosures, but to increase the number of billing hours -- to the detriment of the owners who will be worse off than before!

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 association’s 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) ]