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

Published March 3, 2010


On Monday, February 22, 2010,the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations invited owners and board members to a panel discussion regarding the bills which are pending for the upcoming legislative session.


The panel featured an interesting mix of state legislator, attorneys, lobbyist and homeowners' activist.


The names on the panel promised heated discussions -- and that's what the audience got: Heated discussions with opposing views.


The list of panelists: 

  • State Representative Julio Robaina (District 117 -- Miami) The owners' rights champion in the Florida legislature.

  • Travis Moore, lobbyist for CALL and CAI. Community Association Leadership Lobby (CALL) is the lobbying arm of the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, PA, claiming to lobby for association-friendly reforms. Rosa de la Camera, the invited panelist, had a car accident on the way to the meeting).

  • Donna Berger, Esq., Managing Partner of Katzman Garfinkel Rosenbaum (KGR) and Executive Director of the Community Advocacy Network (CAN). 

  • Maria Arias, Esq. -- attorney of the law firm of Siegfried, Rivera, Lerner in Miami.

  • Jan Bergemann, President of CCFJ, Inc. (Cyber Citizens for Justice), a grassroots organization working for owner-friendly reforms.

The sponsored bills created a great background for the discussion and were quickly divided into two categories: Anti-owner and owner-friendly! The discussion not only concentrated on the contents of the bills, but as well on the actual sponsors behind these bills. Within a short period of time it was very obvious that Travis Moore, lobbyist for CALL and CAI, was identified as the promoter of the bad bills -- namely S1196 and H115. The wording in these bills is so vague that it will create nothing but more lawsuits. Funny enough, the headlines of the bills don't match the wording. Some of the wording does more or less the opposite of what the headline promises. It's all about DECEIT!


Moore didn't have answers to the questions in regard to the dangerous specifics of the bill, even if he is not only the lobbyist for the real sponsors of the bill -- the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff -- but he supplied as well the talking points for this bill. If you compare the actual wording of the bill with the talking points provided by Travis Moore, you can only wonder if he thinks everybody is stupid or blind – or both!

S1196 is a typical example of a bad bill – trying to destroy what little financial sanity is left in our associations. But CALL asks board members to pay fees to help with their lobbying efforts – efforts that are detrimental to homeowners and condo owners alike. This is what every owner has to understand before even starting to discuss the bills which have been filed!

In my opinion everybody has the right to lobby for everything they want and whatever fills their wallets -- this is still supposed to be a free country -- but please not under the cover of being association friendly. Let's face it: CALL claims to lobby for associations to get money from association boards, but actually lobbies for the law firm's interest – which in most cases is actually anti-owners. Well-run, peaceful communities don’t create many lawsuits, the money maker for these attorneys.

The interest of the audience was quickly determined:

  1. Financial problems caused by homes and units not paying dues; homes/units in foreclosure and the lack of liability of mortgage holders to pay for unpaid fees.

  2. The unwillingness of Florida's legislature to protect homeowners in mandatory homeowners' associations. “Why is nothing ever done for homeowners?” was an often asked question.

Bills dealing with Problem 1.:

H327/S840 (Rep. Robaina/Sen. Sobel); H329 (Rep. Robaina); H561/S1222 (Rep. Bogdanoff/Sen. Ring); S1272 (Sen. Ring); S2458 (Sen.Garcia) and S 164/S780 (Sen. Lynn).
Thank you to all these legislators who are trying to do the right thing in this troubled times. It surely shows that there are still consumer-friendly legislators in Tallahassee.


Bills dealing with Problem 2: 

After Representative Carl Domino as the chairman of the Civil Justice & Courts Policy Committee killed H 419 (Rep. Robaina) by refusing to hear the bill, the only bill with a chance to make it is S 1196 (Sen. Fasano) an anti-homeowner bill if there ever was one. But I guess we are getting used to Senator Fasano's wild bills. Last year he presented us with the insurance bill that eliminated sinkhole coverage, claiming that removal of sinkhole coverage would lower insurance premiums. Actually, I had expected him to file this year a bill that would remove windstorm coverage from homeowners' insurance policies, because it surely would decrease the premiums even further. [Lawyers, legislators battle over sinkhole insurance]


The provisions in S 1196 -- especially the wording -- would actually kill whatever little sanity is left in Florida's homeowners' associations. It would just create more confusion and billable hours for attorneys and would bankrupt even more associations and/or owners. Now special interest -- with the help of some Republican "special interest" legislators is trying to merge this bill with some of the owner-friendly bills above in order to make the horrible provisions in S 1196 more palatable. But the best bills added to this bill can't make up for the horrible provisions contained in S 1196.


In short, the Florida legislature is trying to do even more damage to owners living in mandatory homeowners' associations. Why are Florida's legislators so gung-ho to destroy many families' life-savings?

AND NEVER FORGET: This horrible bill is sponsored by CALL, the lobbying arm of the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff --
the same group claiming to work for reforms to help associations. I don't consider it help when the associations' legal bills are getting even higher than they already are.


When will Florida's homeowners finally realize who is friend and who is foe?


It’s not board members against owners – or vice versa. We are all owners and will suffer serious financial losses if our association collapses. If a building is red-tagged, everybody gets thrown out -- board members and owners alike. And if our association can’t pay its bills, all our fees will be increased. That means that owners and board members should pull the same string and not lobby against each other to prove who has more power.


Most of us have worked hard to own the homes and condos. Let’s work together to protect our homes against a system and laws that surely are not really owner-friendly


All things considered, it was another interesting town hall meeting with many thought-provoking discussions and far-reaching agreement between most of the panel members -- discount lobbyist Travis Moore -- and the audience.


The problem:

Tallahassee is run by special interest that absolutely doesn’t care what's good for Florida's citizens.