Courtesy of the Sun Sentinel
Published May 23, 2005
leaders throughout the state are joining the battle over homeowner and
condominium association law in an effort to undercut the influential consumer
group Cyber Citizens for Justice.
"They're the squeaky hinge and they make a lot of noise," said Dick
Spears, past president of the Orange County Homeowners Association, who is
organizing the effort.
The South County Coalition, which represents more than 200,000 homeowners in
Palm Beach County, is on Spears' side.
Also involved are umbrella organizations from St. Petersburg and four
counties: Sarasota, Hillsborough, Pasco and Leon. Spears said he expects
leaders from Broward and Miami-Dade counties to join in a few weeks.
Though this year's legislative session recently ended, leaders of this new
coalition plan to start talking to their legislators in coming months to win
The coalition, tentatively called the Coalition of Community Associations,
wants to make sure Cyber Citizens activists do not dilute homeowner and condo
laws. Formed in 2000, Cyber Citizens has grown increasingly influential in
Among the group's successes: a condominium ombudsman who serves as a neutral
resource for unit owners, associations and board members, and a law that
prevents boards from foreclosing on homes because of unpaid fines.
During the recent legislative session, association-based lobbies tried to
resurrect the law allowing boards to foreclose for unpaid fines in any amount.
"We're not against legislation or people obeying the rules," said
Cyber Citizens President Jan Bergemann, "but we're against boards
changing the rules when they feel like it or making decisions that get into
Bergemann and a legislative ally, Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, contended that
attorneys are pushing the new coalition. While there are some attorneys
involved, Spears said they are not driving the coalition.
"These are basically homeowners," he said. "We're not
interested in filling the pockets of attorneys."
Community associations already have the Community Association Leadership
Lobby, which represents 4,000 clients of the law firm Becker & Poliakoff.
Members of the other association-based lobby, Community Associations
Institute, do business with boards.
Robaina accused the association-based lobbies of spreading misinformation
during this year's session, which ended in stalemate over homeowner
association and condo laws. Members of the new coalition accused Cyber
Citizens of the same.
"I'm not backing off," Robaina said. "I don't care how many
groups are formed. I'm going to fight for anyone who's being abused [by their
Bob Schulbaum, president of the Alliance of Delray Residential Associations,
said Cyber Citizens activists unfairly characterize association leaders as
"It would sound that it's endemic: that people are being persecuted by
boards," he said. "Instead of trying to change how we live in these
communities and destroy the lifestyle we have, it's up to [those residents] to
While serving on Gov. Jeb Bush's Homeowners' Association Task Force last year,
Barbara Katz said she heard quite a few horror stories but that most
associations are not abusive.
"Don't tie our hands. You need rules, maintenance and to collect
dues," she said.