Opinion By Jan Bergemann
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.
February 3, 2018
On Tuesday, January 30, 2018 Barbara Stage and I made
the 4-hour trip to Tallahassee in order to talk to some of the
legislators involved in enacting community association bills.
We made an appearance
in front of the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries
SB 1274 (companion bill to
HB 841) was on the agenda. Senator Passidomo made a
nice presentation of the bill -- a bill that is in desperate
need of some changes to the wording in order to really
clarify some provisions of flaws created by last years
Condo Reform Bill HB 1237.
Some of the wording in
this bill is doing nothing to clarify. The bill needs
changes regards to recall, e-mail communication among board
members (if allowed these e-mails need to be public record)
and conflict of interest situation if attorney represents
association and management company.
But my main concern is
the total lack of enforcement. I told the Senators that the
Division of Florida Condominiums and Mobile Homes
is "about as useless as a pimple." Paying the
Division is a total waste of money. The leadership of this
Division has to go and be replaced by knowledgeable folks
willing to work for their money. Every year Florida
legislators add more provisions to the community association
laws, but without proper enforcement the best bills are
absolutely useless. Serious changes are desperately needed
and for the next session a bill has to be enacted that
creates a "real" enforcement agency and adds homeowner's
associations to the jurisdiction of this regulatory agency.
How good is the best law if the owner has to have minimum
$50,0000.00 (?) to pay for an attorney to enforce the laws
Please watch the video
to listen to my comments to the committee members.
Jan Bergemann speaks in front of the Senate Committee
of Regulated Industries.
It was very interesting to see
that most of the other lobbyists present at the committee hearing waived
their right to speak being in favor of the bill, despite the fact that
they have similar concerns about the wording of the bill.
Barbara Stage talked
mainly about the recall problems -- caused by the confusing
language created by the "unfortunate" language in last
year's Condo Reform Bill. The real problem: The language in
this bill supposed to clarify the recall provisions has even
more flaws. The language as written would allow a board to
reject a recall using "lack of facial value" as a reason not
to certify the recall, but then doesn't even allow the "Owners
Voting for Recall" to file for arbitration. Barbara
Stage was the attorney representing the owners in the first
condo recall case after the new bill was enacted in July of
2017. Many of us remember that the chief arbitrator James
Earl refused to arbitrate the case [Sunbrook
Condominium Association, Inc. v Unit Owners Voting for
Recall] and was fired shortly thereafter. Barbara
asks the Senators to please replace the existing language
and replace it with language that guarantees a fair solution
to a recall of the board -- with a final ruling within a
reasonable time-frame. If the phrase "facially valid" are
the magic words in a recall, it is of utmost importance to
have a detailed explanation what "facially valid" really
means. The original "recall language" added to the laws in
2004 worked great in the first few years until some
arbitrators felt that they had to read "between the lines"
and made a mess out of the recall process. A process that
was supposed to be a simple issue of valid numbers turned
into legal nightmares that often lasted for many months.
Please watch the video to listen to my
comments to the committee members.
Barbara Stage, Esq., speaks in front of the Senate
Committee of Regulated Industries.
After the hearing there was a
little informal "conference" outside the committee meeting room. All the
folks involved in community association bills discussed the issues of
the bill and more or less agreed that changes to the wording are
imperative. I especially liked talking again to Bill Sklar, who was the
chairman of the
TASK FORCE in 2003/2004. He now lobbies for the Real Estate
section of the Florida Bar. I was pleased to hear that they are in favor
of creating a regulatory agency for HOAs, with only a $2-charge for all
community association members, if the Division undergoes serious
In a meeting with Senator Kathleen
Passidomo we discussed the necessary changes to the wording of
provisions in SB 1274 -- and found an open ear with the Senator, not
only for our ideas in regards to the needed changes, but as well for
supporting a big HOA bill next including the creation of a regulatory
We met with Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) who is
very familiar with HOA problems. Over the years many of his constituents
have complained to him about serious -- even fraudulent problems in
their HOAs. His HOA bill,
SB 734, didn't get a hearing this year, but he will file an all
inclusive HOA bill for next year's session. He asked us to help getting
this bill running starting in summer, to have a bill draft ready to
circulate among the legislators to make sure that we have the support of
other influential legislators. Thank you Senator Dennis Baxley!
Senator Dennis Baxley, Barbara
Stage, Jan Bergemann
In the late afternoon we met with Kassie Satterly,
the legislative aid of Representative Moraitis, since the
Representative was in another committee meeting. We explained the
problems of the wording and asked her to forward our concerns -- we
followed up with written explanations -- to the Representative. The
way the bill is worded in the moment would actually confuse the
issues even more instead of clarifying last year's changes -- as was
the explanation for this bill.
On Wednesday Barbara and I got the support from the
representatives of the "LAS
NARANJITAS" (orange shirts) who made it all up to Tallahassee
from Miami. This group -- lobbying for Condo Reform under the slogan
"STOPCONDOABUSE" -- was a main
advocate for last year's Condo Reform Bill.
The Miami Group "STOPCONDOABUSE"
posed in front of the entrance to the Senate floor for a group
We met with various
legislators and/or legislative aids before we made our way home back to
Central Florida. I consider it a pretty successful trip with lots of
good discussions with legislators -- thanks to the great work of our
lobbyist Richard Pinsky from Akerman LLP, who made very helpful
appointments and other arrangements. Thank you Richard!
Time will tell if the
legislators involved are willing to listen to our proposals -- but we
will definitely work hard on preparing a HOA bill which Senator Baxley
has promised to sponsor!
One thing is sure: A trip to Tallahassee is always "INTERESTING"!