Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Published October 8,
associations are shouting the message: We want tougher regulation and we
want it now.
But the million dollar question is: will Florida lawmakers listen?
Homeowners responding to two recent surveys said they want a state agency
to oversee their associations, training requirements for board directors
and an ombudsman's office to act as a neutral resource and liaison for
unit owners and board members. Condo associations have these protections
in place, but HOAs have never had them in Florida.
Part of the reason is that historically the perception has been there are
fewer HOAs, said state Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, who championed condo
reform over the past few years. As of June, there were 1,441,284 condo
units in Florida governed by a total of 21,737 associations, but no state
agency contacted could provide the number of HOAs.
state Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, promise to take up the HOA cause
during the 2009 legislative session.
Robaina said regulatory changes are necessary because the trend is for
developers to build communities with common elements, such as swimming
pools, parking areas and clubhouses, which are designed to be governed by
"The future of Florida living will probably mean even more people
will be living within an environment that has an association,"
Robaina said. "And it's our legislative responsibility to make sure
that living in an association isn't a living hell."
Robaina said he expects the new bill will allow homeowners the same
protections as condo owners. Last session, a different HOA reform bill
passed the legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist in part
because it would have exempted HOA-run swimming pools from state
inspection and regulation.
"Basically, homeowners don't have a lot of protections," said
Sheila Jones, who lives in a Parkland HOA community. With a state agency
monitoring HOAs, "homeowners at least have somewhere to turn to in a
dispute with a board before having to hire an attorney," she said.
Martin Evans, who serves on the board of his Boca Raton HOA, also favors
new legislation, particularly a requirement that directors take courses on
state law and good business practices.
"The education would not only help the board, the community would
know that the state helped educate the board on their duties," he
An online poll released last week by Cyber Citizens for Justice, a
nonprofit organization that represents homeowners, backs them up. It
showed that about 9 out of 10 of its 1,033 respondents want regulation of
HOAs modeled after state condo rules.
"Why reinvent the wheel?" asked Jan Bergemann, president of
His group's survey, taken by homeowners, board members, community
association managers and attorneys, showed homeowners were willing to pony
up four bucks annually — the price condo owners pay — to cover the
costs of state oversight.
The results mirror a poll released in August by the Community Advocacy
Network, a lobbying group for associations. More than 60 percent of the
nearly 300 respondents want reform and just over half said they'd pay the
$4 for regulation.
How about that? People — at a time when food and fuel prices are at
record highs — are still willing to open their wallets to help
government get the job done.
Daniel Vasquez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or 561-243-6686. His condo column runs every Wednesday in the Local
section and at SunSentinel.com/vasquez.