Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
August 22, 2006
36-million-member AARP, acknowledging for the first time there are
problems in condominiums and developments with homeowner associations,
is asking states to pass laws protecting owners from abusive boards.
It calls for a 10-point bill of rights to protect owners, including the
right to have "reasonable" associations and directors and the
right to resolve disputes without going to court.
Some points, such as the right to recall directors, are already the law
in Florida. Others, such as the right to be free from foreclosure over
minor items, have been rejected.
"AARP is one of the elephants in the room, and that it came out and
decided to push the issue is significant," said David A. Kahne, the
Houston attorney hired by the AARP to write the policy report.
But Bob Schulbaum, of Delray Beach, president of the Delray Alliance,
which represents 64 condo and homeowner association communities, says
AARP should mind its own business.
"I think they're exceeding their boundaries," he said.
"What do they have to do with relationships in associations? We may
be retired but we're not retarded. Surveys show that 94 percent of the
people are satisfied with the way their communities are run. Why do they
need to come and agitate about things they know nothing about?"
According to state figures, more than 2 million Floridians live in 1.1
million condo units governed by about 19,000 associations. About half
are in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.
The state doesn't keep records of mandatory homeowner association
communities, but experts say the numbers are equal to that of condos.
And the numbers are growing. The Alexandria, Va.-based Community
Associations Institute estimates 80 percent of all new housing is being
built in a community governed by an association.
AARP said it is stepping into the fray because its studies found a
"polarization" in such communities, with unit owners on one
side and managers on the other.
AARP's decision to support laws favoring unit owners could make a
difference during next year's Florida legislative session. With 2.7
million members in the state, legislators will have to pay attention,
said state Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami.
"This is very good news," said Robaina, who next year will
resume his role as champion of unit owners, something he didn't do this
year. "A very powerful group of people will be working with us to
improve the situation in Florida's homeowner associations and
After hearing hundreds of condo owners in Florida tell what he called
"horror" stories of the way they were treated, Robaina in 2004
and 2005 led the drive for owner-friendly laws. His success included
creation of the state condo ombudsman to mediate disputes between boards
At the legislative session earlier this year, however, Robaina spent
most of his time on other causes, and much of the owner-friendly
In its report, AARP said that in 2003, the latest year available, 46
percent of owners in homeowner association communities and 56 percent of
those in condos and cooperatives were over 50 years old.
Kahne said he will consider the report a success if it helps the average
"I get calls all the time from owners who say they have been
threatened by their association and asking what they should do. I give
them the only practical answer: Capitulate. The association has all the
money," he said.
The AARP's involvement could change that, said Harold Wechsler, an owner
in the 21-floor, 266-apartment Plaza East on the Galt Ocean Mile on Fort
"Unit owners not only in Florida but across the country are beset
by attorneys who represent associations and lobby against owners so we
need all the help we can get. And the AARP is a powerful force that can
help us," he said.
In Florida, organizations have been created to lobby for both unit
owners and associations. The Fort Lauderdale-based Community Association
Leadership Lobby, or CALL, represents more than 3,500 associations that
are clients of the Becker & Poliakoff law firm and the grass-roots
Cyber Citizens for Justice, based in Deland and made up of volunteers,
seeks laws representing unit owners.
"The tide is turning" in favor of unit owners, said Jan
Bergemann, president of Cyber Citizens. "The AARP has gotten many
complaints. Otherwise they wouldn't have gotten involved.''
Donna Berger, the executive director of CALL, said she hasn't reviewed
the AARP reports but "if they are a rehash of the over-regulation
and micromanaging" that the other side wants, she would be opposed.
Legislators should spend their time on more important issues, such as
insurance, she said.
"I don't see people leaving the state because a board president has
been there too long," she said. "I see people leaving the
state because insurance rates are too high."
Letter To Editor:
By Gary Poliakoff -- and Comments
ON BULLETIN BOARD
HERE TO GO TO AARP WEBSITE!