CHIP continues the homeowner fight
By Channing Gerber
Posted 07 - 13 - 2003

Courtesy of South Marion Citizen Online   

A recent Ocala newspaper article mentioned the Marion County Ordinance 00-20, which provides for the mandatory filing of restrictive covenants and financial reports by developers as required by the Florida Statutes. Concerned Homeowners In Partnership (CHIP) was instrumental with the unanimous support of the Board of County Commissioners in having this ordinance put in place.

CHIP felt this was necessary since there was not any penalty for noncompliance in the Florida Statutes. This has lead to some developers ignoring the Florida Statutes. Unfortunately, some still do since there is no penalty for noncompliance with the county ordinance.

CHIP had hoped that the county would withhold the issuance of building permits to a developer who was not complying. This has not been the case to date.

Some developers make a good faith effort to provide a meaningful and accurate report (there is little guidance in the statute) with a considerable amount of detail. We have seen other reports that start with $0.00 and end $0.00, with hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent with no detail except for major headings such as administrative costs, common area maintenance and security.

In one instance over half a million dollars was collected yet no interest income was shown. There was even a developer loan shown to offset a loss in the operation. Reports such as this are bogus and misleading.

The amenity fees do not belong to the developer nor can they be commingled with other funds. The developer is responsible for the management of the funds and that is why the developer must report to the property owners who pay the amenity fees.

CHIP is a member of an alliance that was formed with Cyber Citizens for Justice and the Property Owners' Association of The Villages and others to promote changes in the Florida Statutes that would protect the rights of homeowners in deed-restricted communities that collect mandatory amenity fees.

The legislation proposed by Cyber Citizens For Justice and supported by the alliance would have established a Property Reform Task Force made up of representatives of interested parties. Unfortunately, the Senator who sponsored the bill made changes that would have made the taskforce useless, so the support was withdrawn by the Alliance. The Alliance will try again next year. The Marion County Legislative was very supportive of the proposed legislation as well as many other legislators. We appreciate their support.

CHIP needs members and the Alliance needs to grow. The development and building lobby contributes a great deal of money to the politicians and therefore exert a great deal of power in Tallahassee. Membership power can neutralize this. CHIP urges all those who live in deed-restricted communities to join us to bring about reform.