In Kendall, Robaina talks about plan to help homeowner associations

As foreclosures slam homeowner associations in Miami-Dade, Florida state Rep. Julio Robaina spoke at Monday's KFHA meeting to promote increased government regulation.

Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald
Published November 12, 2008

With Florida ranked second in the nation in foreclosures, not only are homeowners hurting, but local homeowners associations are feeling the effects of a failing economy as well.

The Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations has reported a loss of $30,000 to $40,000 in regular assessments in the past two months. This is why the foreclosure crisis has been a main topic of interest at many recent meetings.

Florida state Rep. Julio Robaina, the self-proclaimed condominium and homeowner association government personage, spoke at Monday night's meeting to present his plan for HOA legislation.

''Foreclosures have had a devastating effect on HOAs,'' Robaina said. ``Right now, when you have a problem in a homeowners associations, you have to sue. The government has no branch that can help. I want to create legislation that will create processes where HOAs are always paid in full.''

According to KFHA President Miles Moss, the problem occurs when homeowners refuse to pay maintenance fees because of impending foreclosures. This causes associations to raise the dues of those who are paying to make up costs. He says that in his Winston Park neighborhood, the association had to raise the maintenance fee by $4 a month to cover a deficit of more than $10,000.

''Tonight, I learned that in Kendall we have a lot of HOAs that are having financial problems with foreclosures. Even if a home goes into foreclosure, we want to create incentive for lenders to pay those dues,'' Robaina said.

Currently, 40 percent of HOAs in the state are in financial hardship, and according to Robaina, by the year 2010, almost half of all Floridians will be living within an association.

Robaina wants to present legislation during a special session of the Florida House in mid-December, somewhat similar to his condo reform act in April. As of now, his two main platforms include a tax certificate program and creating incentives for banks to pay up to 12 months of back dues to HOAs.

Tax certificates would give boards the power to sell delinquent accounts like the county auctions homes defaulting on property taxes. This would allow associations to collect dues immediately but could lead to many losing their homes.

''We never want to give the impression that associations are trying to put homeowners out of their homes,'' Moss said, ``but it is not fair that some people have to pay more money for those who have decided not to pay their mortgage.''

Robaina's incentive program would give banks a 10 percent reduction on the cost of a foreclosed home if they agree to pay a year of HOA fees up front. He said this would defer lenders from creating additional escrow accounts to cover HOA fees.

''Banks are always going to try to take the money out of people's pockets. We have to create incentives to avoid that,'' Robaina said.

The representative of District 117 admits he is not an expert on the matter, but with the KFHA's input and his support, they could establish a law that will provide relief to homeowner and condo associations around the state.

In response, a legislative committee was set up by the KFHA, which will meet periodically with Robaina and his aides to provide information about HOA's struggles in South Florida. Robaina plans to present this information to the Florida House in December.

''I want to leave the legislature knowing that I was effective in helping all condo and homeowner associations, as well as the eight million Floridians living within them,'' Robaina said.