Home Rules

The Fight For Association Reform Bills



Posted May 30, 2005



ISSUE: The fight is on between owners on one side and the service providers on the other side. And every year that nothing happens in Tallahassee it's a win for the service provider industry, mostly the attorneys, who make the big bucks at the expense of the owners.


We had this discussion before. It is pretty obvious that among the members of the Editorial Board of the Sun Sentinel is either Gary Poliakoff, Donna Berger or one of the attorneys of that firm. Or, even worse, whoever writes the editorial is plagiarizing their arguments without even trying to conceal it.


The area in which the Sun Sentinel is distributed is without argument the hot-bed for association problems and lawsuits. Is it a coincidence that the law firms fighting these reforms are sitting in the middle of this same area?


Very good articles in your newspaper report nearly daily about the problems owners and board members are facing. Your staff is very familiar with these issues! From pets to squad car parking -- we have read it all!


But please, don't call CALL a pro-board group -- it's clearly a pro-attorney group. Boards have already been recalled for supporting CALL and its goals!


Since the attorneys can't publicly claim to represent their own interests, they use the words “association” and “board” to give more weight to their arguments.  And since they have the money, they are able to get some supporters on their side -- mostly board members who are happy that they have a lot of dictatorial power.  If money doesn't help, some twisted arguments -- who cares about the truth? -- is being used to convince some gullible seniors to jump to their aid!


Owners can't afford to charter airplanes to fly to Tallahassee -- to fight for their rights. Law firms can -- to protect their income! 


What you now call sensible measures -- the 2004 reforms -- were opposed hard by the same attorneys. The same attorneys claim that the ombudsman is useless and has to go. Why? Because attorneys' profits are endangered if cooler heads are brought to the table and the stupid, but money-making lawsuits, are no longer filed. 


Don't forget that all these lawsuits have only one real winner: The attorneys!
And only one real loser: The owners!


These sensible measures -- as you call them -- were proposed by Cyber Citizens For Justice, in spite of heavy resistance by CALL and other pro-attorney groups!


Since an “association” is a corporation formed and financed by the owners, give me one good explanation why the owners would be against education, easy and inexpensive enforcement of the rules, and accountability of the people in charge? Which homeowner can be against an agency that regulates these associations -- and a place an owner or board member can turn to get a valid opinion about the way things should be done?  Would these homeowners rather prefer to go to an attorney for an expensive interpretation of the governing documents, an interpretation that might turn out to be misleading?


Association rules often force us to live in cookie-cutter communities.  What's wrong with cookie-cutter rules?  It would make it much easier to solve all the problems.  We all know in the meanwhile that the statutes don't work for the welfare of the owners -- no doubt about it!  Exactly the same attorneys who are now fighting any reforms created these rules. They are fighting reforms to protect their income, not the welfare of the associations as they always claim.


You can only build consensus if you have something to offer.  So far organizations like CAI and CALL have totally failed to come up with any feasible suggestions for improvement.  They have so far just worked on defeating any reform proposals.  How can you sit down and talk to somebody who has nothing to offer other than destroying proposals?


The tune all over the nation is changing.  Homeowners are waking up to realize that these service providers are using them as a cash cow.  It is time that these attorneys come down from their high horse and work productively on necessary reforms.


I will be the first one to agree to sit down and talk -- if the other side has something better to offer other than "all is fine in association La-La Land" or "just a few disgruntled owners are unhappy."  But you can't talk to people who are unwilling to discuss necessary reforms and are using "propaganda" to defeat the opposition's proposals.  Being born and raised in Germany, I'm very much against false propaganda!  I learned that lesson in school -- don't fall for it!


We are long past bickering.  We have made proposals for reforms; we have made our suggestions.  They are all there in writing!  It's all on our website! Where are the counter-offers -- if these proposals are as bad as the opposition claims?  Instead of counter-offers we heard name-calling and similar lousy arguments!  Please always remember:  WE are not the people found guilty in court for violating consumer protection laws.  We are trying to create an environment that serves the welfare of the owners -- not the wallets of the service providers.


BOTTOM LINE: Lawmakers should try to get to the bottom of this problem and find out what's right and what's wrong -- and what serves the welfare of their constituents. Both sides need a mediator to create the necessary reforms -- and legislators should be the ones finding the middle way. Staying away from this fray only helps one side: The side that is happy with the way things are and the way they are making lots of money at the expense of the owners!

More than 2 million homeowners shouldn't be held hostage by 2000 service providers that are after their money!


We need our legislators to do their job and serve their constituents, according to their oath of office! We need our elected officials to step up to the plate and do their job:

 Protect their constituents against abuses that can destroy homes and families!


Jan Bergemann, President
Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.


HOAs need more rules, tighter leash

Editorial ignores reality of condos

Home Rules

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board
Posted May 29 2005

ISSUE: Tallahassee punted on a bill to extend condo and homeowner association regulations.

When it comes to the Florida Legislature and homeowner association regulations, nothing is better than something -- at least for now.

In a bill before lawmakers this past legislative session, "something" meant more unproven cookie-cutter rules that would have added to the feuding between residents and associations. "Nothing," as in not taking any action, allows for cooler heads to work together for solutions, instead of at cross purposes via dueling lobbying organizations.

Clearly there are problems in association-resident diplomacy. There are enough lawsuits and disputes to suggest that the power between associations and members needs to be brought into better balance. Sometimes it's the association board that is being abusive, other times it is resident members who are being problematic.

The solutions, however, have to be well thought out. The Legislature during this year did the right thing by putting on the back burner a bill that contained a hodge-podge of regulations.

State lawmakers, led largely by Julio Robaina, R-Miami, passed some sensible measures in 2004, such as creating the condo ombudsman. But until the regulation of condo boards is shown to succeed, Tallahassee should hold off extending its reach to homeowner associations as well.

The combatants in the lobbying tug-of-war must put aside past bickering and work toward solutions. Getting groups like the pro-resident Cyber Citizens for Justice and the pro-board Community Association Leadership Lobby to sit down and talk out solutions could be a watershed in fashioning reasonable regulations and association governance.

There's been enough arguing over dues and ducks. There needs to be more consensus building.

BOTTOM LINE: Lawmakers should stay away from this fray until both sides work together to find effective reforms.