House panel hears HOA 'horror stories' during hearing in Pembroke Pines

Residents speak out at Pines forum

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Joe Kollin

Published January 27, 2008


PEMBROKE PINES - Owners telling "horror stories" about their condo and homeowner associations on Saturday demanded Florida lawmakers rein in the power of their boards of directors.

The demands came as a newly created state House investigatory committee conducted the first of five statewide public hearings.

Lawmakers are listening to the demands, said one of the seven members of the Select Committee on Condominium & Homeowner Association Governance.

"Tallahassee had the idea that there was no problem, that it was just a few disgruntled owners, but the problem is huge," state Rep. Juan Zapata, R-Miami, said he and others have learned.

The committee, which will also meet later in Miami Beach, Tampa, Orlando and Tallahassee, hopes to help owners despite opposition from "special interest groups trying to maintain the status quo," Zapata said, referring to entrenched boards and their law firms.

During the seven-hour hearing at the Broward Community College south campus people were so eager to tell their stories that the chairman, state Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, set a three-minute speaking limit.

"I received a letter from my board attorney saying that my criticism was not welcome at board meetings," said Joseph Franze, a former president of the homeowners association at Nautica in Boynton Beach. "Do I have the right to speak?"

Michael Cochran, director of the state Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums & Mobile Homes, said nothing in the homeowner law allows the board to silence owners, although individual documents may limit speakers to three minutes.

"Homeowner and condo associations are the new American villages but, unfortunately, many have turned into Salem villages with witches when they should be democracies," said Michael Van Dyk, a longtime crusader for homeowner rights from North Miami Beach.

Bill Raphan, who heads state condo Ombudsman Danille R. Carroll's Fort Lauderdale office, asked how many in the audience believed they live in a democracy. One hand rose from the 250 or so people in attendance.

"There are no checks and balances, the owners elect a board and then there is nothing more for the owners to do, and this is no good," said Armando Jose Namis, an owner at the Plaza East condo in Fort Lauderdale.

John Hickey of Lincolnwood Towers, a Hollywood condo, said his community is deteriorating because investors who own units don't care about the quality of life of permanent residents like him.

"Because we don't have the votes, we can't get on the board," said Hickey.

State Representative Julio Robaina, the committee chairman, can be contacted at or 305-442-6868