Letter To Editor: By Gary Poliakoff

Letter To Editor: Margaret M. Gatto


 Response to Letter to Editor Sun Sentinel by Gary Poliakoff -- Dated September


An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.

Published September 3, 2006

Mr. Poliakoff,

In my opinion your letter to the editor, dated September 2, 2006, is just as evasive as many of the other statements you like to make.

Quoting your achievements and credentials doesn't alter the facts. A flawed system governs community associations, but it has clearly failed the only people with a vested interest in these associations: THE OWNERS!

You always make it sound as if you are concerned about the welfare of the owners. I think before discussing these issues any further it should be made very clear that you and the attorneys of your law firm have no vested interest in the welfare of these association members. Your only concern is your own income.  And everybody knows that you and your law firm did really well financially -- much to the detriment of many homeowners and condo owners who had to pay for countless lawsuits.

So much said, let's look at the facts.

First of all: The headline of the AARP model statute clearly states: BILL of RIGHTS for HOMEOWNERS in ASSOCIATIONS.  It didn’t mention condos. It is obvious that you like to distract from this fact by trying to bring up condo statutes. I guess you wouldn't like to admit openly that homeowners, living in homeowners' associations, have been treated in Florida as unwanted stepchildren who are only good enough to pay taxes, insurance premiums and lawyers' fees!

Let's make it very clear: THIS HAS TO CHANGE -- REAL FAST!

Homeowners and condo owners need statutes written in clear language.  They need easy enforcement of those statutes. They need accountability of the people in charge. They need real education telling all owners about their rights and obligations; education provided by unbiased teachers – teachers who don't have their own income in mind!

For many years we have heard about the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act and the Owners' Bill of Rights proudly proclaimed by the Community Associations Institute (CAI) -- the trade organization of the service providers. All of those empty words are nothing more than a deceptive smoke screen to appease the people and "make them feel good"!

In all honesty, all of these suggestions we have seen or heard will do nothing to improve the resolution of problems in these associations, but they will definitely improve the income of the service providers.

Let's face it: You and your colleagues had many years to improve the laws governing our Florida associations. Since you obviously failed miserably, you might consider letting others do the work to improve the situation. I would suggest that now the time is right to let other people decide how to rewrite the statutes. The persons who have a vested interest in these statutes – THE OWNERS -- should make these decisions!

How can you expect service providers to write consumer-friendly bills that most likely will reduce the income of these same service providers?

To make your point about "surrendering rights," you quoted an appeals court decision from 1971. Isn't that quite a while ago -- and times surely have changed?

I quote the United States Constitution, signed in 1787, and the Bill of Rights, introduced by James Madison in 1789. Definitely much older documents, but certainly the best we have ever seen written.

If you want to get a little bit more up-to-date, you might quote a decision of the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey dated 2006.  This decision gave owners back their constitutional rights "owners have signed away at the gates," according to certain specialized attorneys. A good example is definitely the Amicus Brief of the CAI in this case.  We can only hope that the New Jersey Supreme Court upholds this ruling and favors some more issues brought up by Professor Frank Askin, who argued the case for the homeowners of Twin River, New Jersey.

We owners have rights. Since attorneys fight against us for our rights, we definitely need a BILL of RIGHTS for HOMEOWNERS in ASSOCIATIONS -- to re-establish our rights taken away by special interests!

Woody Federman
Sept.3, 2006

The individual must have his rights or else we live in dictatorship. Nobody in this world should have the right to tell any body how to keep his property if that individual owns it. It's nonsenese to feel otherwise. Didn't you ever learn to mind your own business as a child. Use these initials as an adult HOAs MYOB. 

Maida W Genser
Fort Lauderdale, FL

Sept.3, 2006 
Even the AARP Bill of Rights for Homeowners in Associations falls short of the mark, and Gary Poliakoff is further off. Every man (or woman's) home is their castle. Powerful law firms, developers and management companies have influenced the nature of association rules for many years, all to the detriment of the rights of unit owners. 

It is not a joke when you hear people say that you lose your constitutional rights when you move into one of these common interest ownership communities. People make tremendous concessions in order to find an affordable place to live - give up vehicles, give up beloved pets, and more. Younger people, the newer downsized/outsourced early retirees are not as willing to give up their preferred lifestyles. Florida is starting to change, slowly. One of the changes, which Citizens for Pets in Condos (www.petsincondos.org ) advocates is switching from no-pet deed restrictions to pet guidelines. Let responsible animal guardians have pets; put the onus on uncooperative pet owners who ruin it for everyone else. It should not be a crime just to have a pet. Pets can do so much to improve personal health and provide companionship. Even Mr. Poliakoff, with his three cats, a dog, and several turtles knows this to be true.

It is high time for all Floridians to have rights. If you agree, at least about the pet issue, please sign the petition to Allow Pets in Privately Owned Dwellings. You can find it online as the first link from www.petsincondos.org . You can also print off paper petitions and flyers from the web site

Sept.3, 2006 


Humberto Sanchez
Miami, FL 

Sept.3, 2006 


Thank you Mr. Poliakoff, I certainly appreciate your comments but no, thanks, we, the people who live in common interest communities have the right to change what in most part you created in Tallie in order to make millions. As it is now a unit owner is foreclosed for $10.00 without judicial process, are we living in Iraq or Cuba or America? if you are so concerned about the well being of the people why haven't you take the initiative to change just this, that way we will see lots of frivolous cases in court rooms. I have seen many many cases where the owner doesn't owe any money, even after having the evidence but of course, lawyers don't make money out of harmony but out of conflict. You know, will all due respect to the "ethical" lawyers that are still around, it is unfortunate that what was once the most ethical profession is turning out to be the most repulsive one. I still remember when I was a young man when my father used to close deals with a hand shake, without a lawyer involved and he never had to visit a court room but that was ETHICS. 

David Parker

Sept.3, 2006 


Mr. Poliakoff is pretty one sided in his views regarding this whole matter. To begin with his comments should be tempered with the fact that he is a senior partner in probably the biggest law firm (at least in Fla) that represents property associations. NOT the owners, but the governing body of such properties.
The Fl Appeals case he mentions specifically refers to "commonly owned property" and not property owned by individuals. The Appeals Court NEVER ruled on the property rights of anything other than "common" property. Someone who lives in a HOA therefore does NOT fall under this case law, and any property NOT owned by the cooperative in other circumstances likewise also does NOT fall under his broad view of this ruling. His support of this case law should not be surprising given that his firm stands to make a lot of money based on it's premise. Take away the ability to foreclose and litigate minor cooperative disputes and Mr. Poliakoff would likely be living in one of the communities he is making life difficult in. 

Everyone needs to ask...what are the big Law Firms afraid of, the AARP Bill only provides the same rights to people living in cooperatives that everyone else in this great country already receives and enjoys. What they are afraid of is losing millions of dollars in fees, their palatial mansions, yachts, and luxury cars all bought with the dues owners in cooperatives pay to maintain the cooperative, NOT litigate against the very people who pay the dues.


Sept.3, 2006


<<Assessments are the life blood of common interest ownership communities. If an owner fails to pay his/her/their share of the maintenance in a timely manner, others make up the shortfall or the services are curtailed, causing harm to every unit owner.>>

Pray tell, Mr. Poliakoff, how does eviction and vacancy increase the ability of the property management to fund such common services?

Pray tell, Mr. Poliakoff, where in the Constitution does it give third-parties (i.e., management, associations, etc.) the right to tell OWNERS what they can have and not have in their units, i.e., pets, visitors, etc.?

You don't seem to provide the answers to some very basic questions.

David Shapiro

Sept.3, 2006


The basic question is simply this.....Are those who live in a condominium part of a democratic society, or are we, in fact living under tyrannical rule that dictates our every move? Mr. Poliakoff would do well to wake up and smell that coffee he's been drinking! The time is long overdue for reform of the repressive dictatorial atmosphere which has become synonymous with condo living. Our country prides itself as a free and democratic society, in which people enjoy their basic freedoms. Condominiums run contrary to any such premise. Board members, puffed up by their own self importance, subject their neighbors to all manner of harassment over the most petty of issues. Lawsuits abound, pitting neighbor against neighbor. Condo living has become such that despite your "ownership" of your unit, others are in a position to dictate what you can and cannot do within the confines of your property. It has come to embody the most uncomfortable type of living for people who want nothing more than to just kick back, relax, and enjoy life in sunny Florida! And when you dare to complain about it, you're told, "Well, if you don't like it, why don't you move?" Another example of the friendly, neighborly atmosphere to be found in condominiums!

Eric Gallagher

Tampa, FL

Sept.3, 2006


"Assessments are the life blood" of parasitic attorneys like Mr. Polokoff who make their living off of these assessments.

Perhaps Mr. Polikoff is concerned that the passage of the AARP bill would "disrupt the integrity of the common scheme.

claudia krysiak

Pompano Beach, FL

Sept.3, 2006

After reading your article, I tried to figure out what the real purpose of it was. It seemed to be a self-serving polemic meant to reassure the many HOA's and condo associations who have made you rich that you were still their trusty hired gun and they can safely continue making you richer.
All rules should pass the litmus test of logic and need before being enacted or enforced. Mindless, ignorant rules that do not pass the test should be broken. If the rules are not based on logic or need it means they were made because of someone's, probably a board member's, own fears or prejudice. The no pets rule is exactly that sort of rule. It's neither logical nor necessary.

Jeff Chester

September 4, 2006


I generally agree with Jan but there is much to what Poliakoff writes. If it were possible to elect competent members to the BODs of Condos and HOA's many of the issues would go away. People buy condos and hoa controlled properties without reading the covenants, the statutes or the financial statements --- we've come so far from 'caveat emptor' we've become a 'victim' society. Moreover, indviduals sign on to be held to the covenants and then complain when they are enforced. The condo concept in America is only about 40 years old, before that, the choice was to rent or to own your own -- it separated the classes; people aspired to the freedom afforded by owning their own. As legislators and developers realized the money that could be derived from breaking up properties into smaller and smaller units, they evolved the condo concept. Developers like Irwin Levy, assisted by lawyers like Poliakoff, Sachs and Shapiro wrote docs which no one read and no one fought --- the price was right.

Now that everyone has 'rights' the concept is breaking down; most of the people who are in favor of the AARP measures have never served on the BODs of their communities -- if they had, they would have a better appreciation of the difficulties involved in managing community interest properties. This is not to say that Poliakoff and company aren't guilty of terrible abuses -- but Poliakoff is correct -- when you buy into a condo or HOA you give up certain rights that you would have if it were a private home on a non HOA lot (and battling city ordinances and zoning restrictions isn't fun either). The fact that most people can't afford/maintain a private home is not germane. It's not the duty of government to provide affordable housing -- at least not yet -- and when it does, I can assure you that the experience will be worse than any condo or HOA.

Michael Van Dyk - Miami

September 4, 2006


Mr. Poliakoff is insincere when he says, "Floridians may be pleased to learn that the...Right of Unit Owners' prevailing in litigation to recover legal fees...[is] already incorporated into the Condominium Act." Poliakoff's attorneys successfully prevented me from recovering my legal fees in the case of Van Dyk versus Golfwood HOA. The Poliakoff attorney argued that my attorney had spent too much time on the case. Although I won the case easily, the judge bought the nonsense Poliakoff argument and I lost $8,000 in legal costs. The law needs to be strengthened to keep the bloodthirsty, rapacious Poliakoff lawyers in check. There is little justice when Poliakoff attorneys are around.
Jerry Melvin
Fort Walton Beach, FL

September 4, 2006

In his opinion about the “AARP BILL OF RIGHTS FOR HOMEOWNERS” Gary Poliakoff stated his own personal views about money -- money that must be collected from association members.

What does Poliakoff think about money? He calls it “life blood.” Yes, indeed it is the life blood of his law firm. Poliakoff is a partner in Becker & Poliakoff, one of the largest law firms specialized in association law in Florida. It has grown rich by “collecting” the “life blood” from countless citizens.

An interesting example about the means of pursuing collection of “life blood” is the ruling of the Miami Federal Court in the case of:
Fuller vs. Becker & Poliakoff (192 F. Supp. 2d 1361 M.D.Fla., 2002)

The court found the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff GUILTY of violating Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

On consumers' motion for partial summary judgment, the District Court, Kovachevich, Chief Judge, held that:

(1) maintenance assessments from recreational property memberships were "debts";

(2) lawyers were "debt collectors";

(3) language used in collection letters was a "false representation" and "misleading" to a least sophisticated consumer;

(4) language used in collection letters was not "deceptive" to a least sophisticated consumer;

(5) collection letters did not "state amount of debt owed"; and
(6) fact issues existed precluding summary judgment.
Class action lawsuit against the law firm of Becker&Poliakoff brought by homeowners.

Consumers need help to solve the many problems they face every day. Consumers who buy property in common interest ownership communities need all of the help that they can get.

Many consumers are at the mercy of ruthless and profit-hungry law firms that intimidate them into giving up their money and their homes.


• Every property owner in an association must take an active interest in his community and his association. None of us can afford to let someone else “manage” our communities and our lives.

• Every consumer must guard his “life blood” to make sure that some unscrupulous pickpocket does not steal all of his money under the pretense of providing legal advice or management services. The only advice we consumers need is how to live in harmony in peaceful communities, free from lawsuits.

• Every Florida citizen must vote for legislators who have openly committed to solve the dilemmas of home ownership. Vote and actively support those Legislative candidates who openly support the personal property rights of home owners.

Those are the facts. They speak for themselves. Thank you for making sure you know the facts

Jerry G. Melvin

M Skor
Miami, FL

September 5, 2006


The question is...to what degree does one yield in giving up ones right to privacy and basic civil rights. Mr. Poliakoff stands for BIG Business and making sure his law firm generates $$$ from frivolous laws suits against condo owners supporting shady condo directors and encourages his associates to do so also. So, I couldn't care less about Mr. Poliakoff opinion or comments on any subject. Nor would I believe a word he says!

Barbara Gugliotti
Brooksville, FL

September 5, 2006


Mr. Poliakoff,

If homebuyers knew what rights they were surrendering, I believe there would be far fewer sales in “common interest ownership communities” and hence far fewer of these types of developments. No person who enjoys the privileges of living within the United States would knowingly surrender his or her Constitutional rights.

What you fail to understand are the concepts of “common interest” and “community.” Common interest refers to things that all homeowners within a community share the responsibility for and the use of such as entry ways, clubhouses, pools, playgrounds, etc. A review of county records for individual homes within a community shows only the name or names of those persons who purchased those homes. Homeowners’ associations do not bear the financial liability (the cost to purchase the home, insurance, taxes, repair and maintenance, etc.) for the homes within its boundaries, and its name therefore does not appear on the titles to individual homes within the community. Individual homes belong solely to the persons whose names are on the titles.

To foreclose on someone’s home and likely his or her largest investment may be legal, but it is without a doubt unconscionable. Foreclosure most definitely does not represent the concept of community. Communities and neighborhoods are about people, not property. The discord within homeowners’ or condominium associations that exists and keeps you and others within your profession in business is the result of property becoming a priority over people. The lifeblood of common interest communities is NOT assessments. The lifeblood of any community is the working relationships between the people within the community. Those working relationships break down and/or fail when the individuals within the community cease communicating with each other directly and instead talk through attorneys and property management companies. If you and others in your profession truly wish to build strong communities then I suggest you facilitate communication and compromise, if that is at all possible for anyone who whose job revolves around seeking win/loose situations rather than win/win situations.

Jerry Koenig

Clearwater Beach, FL

September 5, 2006


Every time you see one of the high priced lawyers talk about why we don't need protection for condo owners, I invite you to think about whether that person's opinion is worth the time of day or whether that person should be seen in the light of the day - as a shill for the "ka-ching" lobby.

Think about it. Mr. Poliakoff's law firm collects millions from condo controversy. His pedantic rhetoric is a reflection of his worry that true legislative reform might cut into his fancy life style.

As an earlier commenter said, "the time is long overdue for reform of the repressive dictatorial atmosphere which has become synonymous with condo living."

Board members who are enamored with their own self-importance are child's play for the management companies and attorneys who want to fill their pockets. They are easily led around by the rings in their noses.

That's why harassment and litigation-related issues abound. And no matter who thinks they may "win" when the issue is finally resolved, the sad fact is that everybody loses, except the lawyers, because all unit owners have to pay the legal fees.

So the only real winner is Mr. Poliakoff, and others of his ilk.

If our elected representatives listen to him, then it's time to get new representatives who will listen to the "little" people rather than the silk tie advocates.

Gary Poliakoff is one of those CAI CCAL lawyers, along with 3 other of his attorneys, who has created a trade group headed by one of his CCAL attorneys, Donna Berger, to fight Cyber Citizens for Justice in Florida.  The ostentatious name given to the lawyer trade group is Community Association Leadership Lobby, or CALL.


By this time you should have a clear understanding of the lawyer's "word game", using meanings and interpretations that are biased and that misrepresent the facts.  We, as advocates, must set the record straight, not by generalized attacks on proponents of homeowner rights, but on those who continue to redefine American society, as in the Poliakoff letter, to fit their income streams. 

Citizens for Constitutional Local Government
George K. Staropoli, Pres.

Condo owners' rights, obligations

Gary A. Poliakoff 
fort lauderdale 
Posted September 2 2006 

As the American Bar Association's adviser to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform Laws, which is currently working on proposed amendments to the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act, I am very familiar with AARP's proposed Bill of Rights for homeowners, given the fact that the commissioners have reviewed and debated each of the proposals.

Floridians may be pleased to learn that eight provisions of the proposed "Bill of Rights" (1. Alternative Dispute Resolution; 2. Right of Unit Owners' prevailing in litigation to recover legal fees; 3. Right of notice of board meetings where rules affecting the use of the condominium property are proposed; 4. Right to vote on rules and document amendments; 5. Access to books and records; 6. Right to run for office; 7. Assurance that associations and boards of directors must be reasonable in their actions; and 8. Ombudsman) are already incorporated into the Condominium Act. 

The remaining two proposed rights (1. Prohibition of foreclosure against delinquent unit owners until the amount owed exceeds a given threshold; and 2. Unit owners not having to surrender their rights) are not in the best interest of unit owners. The sole source of funding of services necessary to maintain the community, from lawn care, pool maintenance, security, insurance, management and other professional services, comes from the board's authority to promulgate a budget, levy assessments and, where and when necessary, lien and foreclose upon delinquent unit owners. 

Assessments are the life blood of common interest ownership communities. If an owner fails to pay his/her/their share of the maintenance in a timely manner, others make up the shortfall or the services are curtailed, causing harm to every unit owner. 

Insofar as the misguided suggestion that unit owners should not have to surrender their rights, Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal said it best in the case of Sterling Village Condominium Inc. v. Breitenbach, (251 So.2d 685): "…Every man may justly consider his home his castle and himself as the king, thereof; nonetheless, his sovereign fiat to use his property as he pleases must yield, at least in degree, where ownership is in common cooperation with others. The benefits of condominium living and ownership demand no less. The individual ought not be permitted to disrupt the integrity of the common scheme through his desire for change, however laudable that change might be."