MEETING October 18, 2003
More An Opinion Than The Actual Minutes
Published 10 - 22 - 2003
By Jan Bergemann, Member of the HOA Task Force

The Miami meeting was called to order by Co-Chair Bill Sklar.  (A little late, because some people had a hard time finding the right location.)  A quorum was established, nine members were present and three participated by phone. 

The minutes of the September 24th meeting can't be published yet, since changes are necessary. The members agreed that the minutes should contain a roll-call vote. The minutes of the Tallahassee meeting will be published as soon as they are available.

First Issue of the day was Removal of Directors.

We listened to the report of Karl Scheuerman, DBPR Chief Arbitrator, who gave us detailed information about the way the Condo Act regulates removal of directors. It sounded kind of complicated, but the written documentation supplied should give us some better information. I just wish that these documents could be distributed ahead of time, so members can show up at the meeting better prepared.

Everybody dealing with homeowners' association issues knows that this is a very hot topic. After discussing the regulations already in place, it became obvious that the opinions differed. In my opinion - and that of other homeowners on the Task Force - more regulations will only help if there is some kind of easy enforcement of the regulations.

The official CCFJ presentation clearly shows the difficulties and possible legal fees that can occur, using the current laws in place.

Whether or not binding arbitration  can be the solution remains to be seen. So far, it seems like the opinions of the members of the Task Force differ widely.

Some good proposals were made by John Tummolo, a homeowner who distributed his ideas about this issue and proposed improvements. 

Mark Benson, representing FCAMA (Florida Community Managers Alliance) presented a well-organized binder to each Task Force member.  The binder contains a wealth of good information, especially the report of the California Law Revision Commission. The findings of this commission should definitely be used as food for thought. 
 
But Benson again asked the question “Why were no association managers' representatives appointed to the Task Force?”  Homeowners definitely need to rely on the professional skills of association managers.  Homeowners need honest and dependable professionals to run these associations.  As attempted in the last legislative session, deregulation would definitely be a great disservice to owners who depend upon these services.

During the discussion various members of the Task Force claimed to know the opinion of Governor Bush. Co-Chair Julie Baker, DBPR, stated that Governor Bush is against regulation of HOAs. So did Joe Adams, and Randy Lyon even added that as well the legislators are against any kind of regulation. These statements prompted me to write an Open Letter to Governor Bush , asking him for an official statement. I feel it is important that we hear from Governor Bush directly, since he was the one many of us homeowners elected to protect our rights.

Then House Representative Julio Robaina, who addressed the Task Force, immediately corrected the statement about the legislators being against regulation. 

In his short speech Julio Robaina emphasized that there are still legislators who are willing to fight for the welfare of their constituents and who are in favor of regulation and enforcement.  
 
Representative Robaina, Chairman of the HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION GOVERNANCE, has been quoted in a recent article: "We're hearing complaints about everything from fraud in elections to no accountability by boards to nepotism to criminals serving as managers to two and three special assessments a year. There's no enforcement because the state doesn't have any laws to get investigators out to properly investigate and get state attorneys involved.'' 

He hit the nail right on the head! 

We definitely hope that other legislators will step up and publicly support legislation that favors the welfare of their constituents.  We hope that they will support bills to enact serious regulation and easy enforcement of existing laws in mandated properties. The abusive behavior of some boards and their attorneys just has to stop. And since our government allowed these associations to be created, it is in our opinion their responsibility to rein them in. 

There are many good associations with happy owners. They will definitely not be affected by regulations and enforcement. 

A wide majority of citizens are not bank robbers, but we still have laws against robbing banks. And these laws are being enforced.  

Yet homeowners who complain about violations of laws are told to hire a private attorney to enforce existing laws. Do banks receive similar advice after being robbed? 

We heard interesting testimony from concerned parties. For the first time, we heard from realtors, who testified that abusive boards create problems with sales on short notice and invent new rules just as they go along. Homeowners have discussed this abuse before and have told about unbelievable incidents during sales. Some associations use it as a source of extra income, knowing that sellers are very vulnerable at closing. 

We received some very well documented presentations, definitely helpful to verify that there are serious problems, not just imagined by a few "disgruntled" homeowners.

Second Issue of the day was Alternative Dispute Resolution --
see CCFJ Presentation .

But because of lack of time the discussion was cut short. The decision was made to have Task Force member Robert Jones, Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium, work with Karl Scheuerman on a presentation and to make feasible proposals. We will be looking forward to that presentation at the Tampa meeting on December 8, 2003.

At the end of the meeting, Co-Chair Bill Sklar suggested this item for the agenda of the next meeting  --   a discussion of the "Homeowners' Bill of Rights," proposed by the CAI through Joe Adams.  I'm definitely opposed to wasting our valuable time with more lip service. We don't need to talk about more ideas, which carry no enforcement. We don't need any rights proposed by a trade organization. We homeowners need enforcement with teeth, which will give us back our vested rights. The industry has had more than 20 years to get things right. They failed miserably! 

It's time to act and to come up with feasible solutions. Time is running short, with only 20 more hours left to discuss vital issues with Task Force members. So far, after two meetings, the only decision the Task Force has reached so far is that homeowners should be allowed to fly six flags on Flag Day, leaving out the "HOW TO," because the industry members voted down the proposed amendment of adding the words “flagpole/bracket” to the bill!

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