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

Published November 16, 2009


"Only" a few more than 250 interested owners made it to the HOA/CONDO town hall meeting in Fort Lauderdale on October 29, 2009. The event, sponsored by the Sun Sentinel, touched an issue that is on the minds of many of Florida 's homeowners and condo owners who really want to know: Where are our community associations going?


I said "Only" 250, because the event could have easily drawn a bigger crowd. But the time limit of the meeting -- 90 minutes -- made many interested people decide not to come: "I wouldn't have gotten the opportunity to speak anyway." Don't feel bad: Even the panel members were cut short. They had a lot more to say!


Condo and HOA issues are anyway a "Hot Potato" all over Florida, as the recent day-long event of the TV Station Local 6 in Orlando showed. More than 700 people phoned the established phone bank of experts and more than 300 logged into the LIVE CHAT


Many owners, especially retirees on a fixed income, are plagued with the problems of budget shortages in their community associations. It becomes more and more obvious that the system is bankrupting condo owners and homeowners and only legislative reforms can prevent a total disaster. 


Don't forget: The association system is bankrupting many good families. They did everything they were told to do, but they may lose their homes because their associations go broke!


Here are the videos of some of the key questions asked during the town hall meeting -- and the summaries of the panel members.


Believe me: The videos speak for themselves! (Click on pictures to watch the videos!)



My question is in reference to banks: We bailed them out and they are not taking possession of the properties. As a president I foreclosed on three units. Basically I had the units in possession for the last 24 months and the banks are always coming back threaten to evict people we put in there as renters. I thought something just changed recently?

Listen carefully to the response of State Representative Julio Robaina. It tells you where to find the actual problem.

Question: How do you get the board to do what they are supposed to do? My association does everything in secret. They have broken every Sunshine Law and I'm told by an attorney that the only thing I can do is go and take them to court and to hire an attorney privately?

Bill Raphan from the Condo Ombudsman's Office and Donna Berger, Esq. try to give some answers.

I live in an association that is under a master association. But the master association and my homeowners' association have the same lawyers, have the same CAM. So, when our problems arise they always take the side of the master association. There should be lawyers for the homeowners' association that should be different from the master association and the CAM should be different from the master association.

Daniel Vasquez: "That sounds to be too sensible to work!"

Donna Berger, Esq. and Gary Poliakoff try to find an answer -- but both their firms are representing associations and master associations very often.

Question: The statute says that the building, the unit-owner has to have insurance. How come the association may purchase. Why should the association be required to purchase the insurance.?

Listen to the discussion -- it's really interesting and shows the problems created by language in the statutes.
Question: "How can a small complex handle if 5-6 units out of 40 are not paying fees without foreclosing, just recording a lien. This takes 12% - 15% out of our budget. We still need to maintain the property for the community and property value. You see what they are faced with here right now. They are really lucky that there are only 5-6 owners not paying out of the 40. But that's still not one paying hurts!"

Gary Poliakoff, Esq. tries to lay the blame on the Federal Government. 
Donna Berger, Esq. "Inaction is not an option!"

But altogether they didn't want to admit that the system fails to address the situation we are facing. And don't forget, these attorneys are surely not facing a budget crisis! 



Gary Poliakoff, Esq.

(Law firm Becker & Poliakoff


Just listen! His statement plainly speaks for itself!

Donna Berger, Esq. 

(Law firm Katzman, Garfinkel Rosenbaum

"If you tell somebody what they can and can not do, you gonna have a problem!
Whether you interpret it like us attorneys in our own special way, communication is key!

"And pick the right lawyer -- that helps!"

Bill Raphan

Office of the Florida Condo Ombudsman


Education is very important -- for everybody, and I do agree unit-owners as well as board members.

The enemy of condominiums is apathy!

Jan Bergemann

President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.


We have all realized in the meanwhile we created here fails the owners. We didn't sign that some powerful members take over the power of the board, do whatever they want and are protected by expensive attorneys who are being paid with my money 

That much said: We need reforms, and we need them desperately before we bankrupt more owners here in Florida!

State Representative Julio Robaina, (R-Miami)

I love my volunteers, but if you're gonna volunteer it comes with a huge responsibility. You need to know what you are doing!

Have you ever seen the State of Florida pulling the license of a bad CAM? We're gonna make sure that it is simple to take the license of a bad CAM!

And last not least: We like to reform the DBPR!

Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood)


They take the money away from the Ombudsman. One of the first phone calls I received was that: Keep the money that you pay -- the $4 that you pay -- with the Ombudsman and let him and his staff of how many people -- 2 or 3? -- do what they can do to help educate people who actually are on these boards. That's really important!

We are here to listen: What is in the best interest of the unit-owners!

State Representative Hazel Rogers 

(D-Lauderdale Lakes)


We'll try to put some legislation in place to make sure that board members, who are volunteers, and we always need to remember that. They need to understand the rules and also to be a little bit more open with providing documents. 


You have heard what's going on. You have heard from the panel members how they feel about reforms. Make your mind up what goals you want to support -- and who to choose to support your goals. You have heard it: Without your support the best intentions of legislators will be going nowhere.

Help them -- so they can help you!