OF CONDO UNIT-OWNERS
HEARINGS FOR CONDO BILL HB 1223
BUSINESS REGULATION COMMITTEE
By Jan Bergemann
Wednesday, March 10, 2004 was the first big
test for the much debated condo bill HB 1223 in the Florida House of Representatives.
The bill was heard by the Committee on Business Regulations, one of the
biggest House Committees with 40 members.
House Representative Julio Robaina (R-Distr.117-Miami)
is considered the father of this very consumer-friendly bill that tries
to protect unit-owners against the many abuses they testified to during
the hearings of the Committee on Condominium Governance. Under the good
guidance of Chairman Manuel Prieguez, the members discussed the bill and
presented and adopted amendments. At various times it was made very clear
that this bill is being created to protect the unit-owners. This bill includes
the protection of the volunteers, board and committee members that give
their time for the welfare of associations and its members. By the many
examples the Condo Committee members proved that it is necessary to create
checks and balances to avoid these many known abuses!
After we heard the many proposed amendments,
it seems that the amended bill will be able to do just what it had set
out to do: Protect the unit-owners in
It was interesting to read
all the opposing
to this bill which were generated by attorneys and incumbent board
Also, it was interesting to see and hear
the public testimony to this bill.
Peter Dunbar, a well-known attorney and
lobbyist, lead the charge in opposition to the bill. According to his own
admission, he has been involved in creating these laws for 30 years. Dunbar
spoke in favor of protecting the many well-meaning volunteers.
Using the frequent attorney platitude,
Dunbar termed the many owners who testified at the hearings about many
abuses “the outspoken but small minority.” He considered the big majority of owners to be happy with the status
Peter Dunbar, well-known attorney and
lobbyist, with Pennington, Moore,
Wilkinson, Bell & Dunbar P.A.
|But in my opinion these attorneys who
admit working on these condominium laws for more than 30 years should finally
admit that these laws are seriously flawed. Otherwise how can they explain
the many problems?
Next was Donna Dimaggio Berger, a member
of the well-known law firm Becker & Poliakoff. Remember that
Gary Poliakoff, the founding partner of this law firm, was booed by unit-owners
at the hearing of the condo committee in Davie. She spoke for CALL. Is
this a new version of CAI/FLA? She stated that she is working on association law
for 12 years and can’t see the necessity of sweeping reforms. She vehemently
opposed this bill.
Donna Dimaggio Berger attorney with the
law firm of Becker & Poliakoff P.A.
Last but not least was Travis Moore, a
registered lobbyist for Becker & Poliakoff and the Community Association
Institute. In unconvincing testimony, Moore just repeated the well-worn-out
slogans brought up against association reforms all over the nation. The
problem the opposition faces is: More and more legislators are figuring
out the truth and seeing through the smoke screen that falsely claims to
protect homeowners’ rights.
This is especially evident in Arizona
where legislators seem to have figured out that they have been taken for
a ride and are voting for legislative reforms with overwhelming majorities.
Always remember that these “specialized”
attorneys are losing some income if there is peace and harmony in all communities.
A few expensive lawsuits among neighbors will definitely help their bank
accounts! Let's say they are biased in favor of their wallets.
They will always resent any legislation
that is well written and to the point -- with enforcement supplied.
If they say, “It's detrimental to the welfare of associations,” they actually
mean that it's detrimental to their own income.
Should we leave many condo associations
in turmoil in order to make a few attorneys even richer?
Travis W. Moore, lobbyist for the
Community Association Institute
and Becker & Poliakoff P.A.
It is very obvious that the interests of
owners and attorneys are worlds apart. Owners would like a peaceful community
where most of the budget can be used for maintenance and beautification
-- and low monthly dues. An attorney will always like a big part
of the association budget to be used for legal fees. While attorneys like
a new Mercedes, you and your neighbors would rather see a well-kept neighborhood!
let’s work on reform for the welfare of the consumers!
Mark Benson representing the Florida Community
Association Managers Alliance (FCAMA) and lobbyist Richard Pinsky spoke
in favor of the bill but only with some changes and further consideration be made
to include changes to FS 468. In their professional opinion something is needed
to help the consumers and create more harmony inside these associations,
which works in favor of these professionals, since it’s definitely easier
to manage a happy community than one with feuding members. FCAMA is an
organization that promotes stricter regulations and better enforcement
for community managers. They speak out against abuses of owners by management
companies, which have given this profession a really bad reputation. Maybe
board members should ask management companies if they are members of FCAMA
before hiring them? Their concept sure is very consumer-friendly.
Because time was running out, proponents
of the bill voluntarily cut their testimony short or waived their right
to speak. It was obvious that the majority of committee members were going
to vote in favor of the bill. Bill Laird and Steve Comley made short presentations.
Comley talked in favor of protecting vested rights, like the right to rent
his unit, a right that existed when he purchased his unit. Roy Gallo, an
89-year old gentleman who came all the way from Inverness to Tallahassee
to testify, lost his life-savings due to a policy change in the condominium
association he lived in. Another sad story in our state that advertises
as “A Retirement Paradise”!
I waived my right to speak (read
my planned presentation) in order to get the final vote in timely
The result of the vote for Condo Bill HB
Favorable with COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE
YEAS 33 -- NAYS 6.
Definitely a great success for this bill! But for consumers it’s just one
battle won – the war has still to be decided. It is very important that
unit-owners from all over Florida keep contacting their legislators and
asking them to support HB 1223 and the identical Senate Bill SB 2498. Most
of the concerns voiced by owners have been amended and it is now clearly
a bill that will serve the purpose it was intended for: Protecting
rights and welfare of the unit-owners.
A BIG THANK YOU TO THE HOUSE REPRESENTATIVES
WHO VOTED IN FAVOR OF THIS BILL!
NAY - VOTES
Rep. Thad Altman
Part of Brevard County
Rep. Randy Johnson
Lake, Orange, Osceola County
Last year Representative Johnson
promised to kill the Task Force Bill.
|(Quote e-mail): "Name suppressed",
you have my commitment to kill these
bills. I will see to it personally.
Let's hope some of them will change their mind if
the bill goes to a Floor Vote!
|Rep. Arthenia Joyner
|Rep. Charlie Justice
A REALTOR VOTING
|Rep. Roger Wishner