Opinion And Report By Jan Bergemann
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.
February 20, 2008
than 130 interested owners were present in the small conference room in
on February 16, 2008 at 10:00 AM when Chairman Julio Robaina opened the
third hearing of the House Select Committee on Condominium and Homeowners
Association Governance. Actually, there wouldn’t have been room for more
people, since nearly all seats were taken. Since the meeting room was
small, many owners who wanted to speak at a meeting and who live between
were asked to attend the
meeting next week. In
the meeting room has a capacity of more than 300 seats!
meeting started with testimony from owners and board members that had been
invited -- or subpoenaed. Just
a few of the board members followed the "invitation" of the
Select Committee and more subpoenas are yet to come. It was interesting to
hear that attorney Randall Roger's clients all chose not to follow the
invite. Randall Roger, who
owns a small law firm in Boca Raton, was quoted in an article of the Daily
Business Review last Thursday (quote): "Playa del Mar attorney
Roger responded this week to Robaina’s first letter, saying the board,
property manager and he were willing to discuss concerns but they would
be available to the House committee only during regular business hours."
Gee, what a generous offer! They'll have their chance in
, where the meeting is on a Monday during business hours!
sounds similar to attorney Leigh Katzman's offer at the
meeting, when Katzman told the representatives that he would gladly look
over any legislation they intend to file and let them know if it's OK.
the arrogance of some of these attorneys is just amazing. Maybe they
should be more interested in explaining to their clients that it is a
violation for boards to withhold official association documents. Blaming
the committee members for demanding records from boards is absolutely
ridiculous. These attorneys should realize that they are supposed to
represent the association and its members, not some board members who are
is a McCarthyesque paranoia sweeping the landscape, fueled by this select
committee,” said attorney Gary Poliakoff of Becker & Poliakoff in
. (Quote from Daily Business Review article dated February
14, 2008) In my opinion this
quote just shows that these attorneys are the problem, definitely not the
Robaina's statement in the same article is definitely a lot more credible
than that of these specialized attorneys, whose biggest excuse for all the
known problems is that "just a few disgruntled owners are
is what Robaina said: (quote) "But, these lawyers, instead of helping
us get access to records or reporting possible fraud in associations they
represent, are doing more to bury or hinder these investigations by this
committee or by any other agency trying to investigate.”
because citizens ask for enforcement of existing laws, does that mean that
they can be labeled as "disgruntled”?
I really wonder if these attorneys take themselves seriously.
audience heard more than seven hours of testimony from outraged owners and
board members, who mostly complained about the total lack of enforcement,
about the DBPR DIVISION dropping the ball, and board members that
knowingly ignore the laws, because they know that they will not be held
We heard the story of an
Englishman, who came here to spend his winter months in
, only to get involved in a lawsuit that has so far eaten more than
$487,000 of his savings -- just to obtain access to association records.
He won in Appeals
is still waiting for records and reimbursement of his legal fees. Definitely
not great advertising for his countrymen, who might consider investing
their money in real estate here in
outrageous story involves the complaints filed against community
Dugger, Sr. -- the first one -- of many -- still unresolved since
here a selection of some of the cases that were presented to the committee
developer still forcing owners to pay dues to his private company,
despite turn-over years ago, but unwilling to account for the
town home community , whose owners had single insurance policies for
their homes since Day One, but whose owners were outright threatened
by DIVISION employees to get a master policy or be fined by the
Division. Funny, normally DIVISION employees are nowhere to be seen
when owners ask to enforce the statutes! This was a clear
example how misguided the DIVISION really is! Since
Division employees used "language unbecoming" at the
meeting, DIVISION Chief Mike Cochran was forced to personally
an association moving all reserve funds into one account called
“INFRASTRUCTURE” without a vote of the members, and the association
attorney threatening with the association filing for bankruptcy if any
owners would dare to challenge this "board decision."
of association funds: Board
members paying themselves -- in an association that has long ceased to
officially exist with deed restrictions long expired.
But the owners are still forced by the board to pay dues under
the threat of liens and foreclosure.
developer declaring bankruptcy, abandoning the remaining lots and
leaving a small group of owners in a defunct association, unable to
pay all the bills. Life savings going up in smoke and owners finding
liens placed on homes they paid for in full.
convicted felon, this time from the UK, getting elected as president
at turn-over without official election, working with a CAM with no
current license, avoiding disclosure of financial records. Owners
trying to speak up are being threatened! Free speech, obviously
unknown in this community.
board pushing strict regulations that make video-taping the meetings
nearly impossible, even prohibiting the taping of the question and
answer portion of board meetings.
Bergemann made a PRESENTATION
the committee members that concentrated on homeowners' association issues,
elections in associations and the total lack of enforcement. The failure
of the DBPR to regulate and enforce the statutes as required created
serious problems in our condominium associations. Without a simple tool to
enforce rules and statutes, legislators can add another 200 pages to
already lengthy statutes, but it will not do any good for the owners. The
legislature could easily put a stop to financial
mismanagement, uncontrolled spending, and even clear embezzlement in our
associations and stop the financial bleeding many of our neighbors just
can’t afford any longer. We need enforcement and accountability of the
people in charge.
Spears, Chairman of the Coalition of Community Associations, spoke about
recent discussions among the groups representing owners.
These discussions may prove productive for homeowners and
associations alike. Spears then asked the Select Committee to give
favorable consideration to (committee member) Rep. Kevin Ambler's
"Home Court Advantage" bill.
Should a trial run in the
area be successful, Ambler’s bill will provide for local resolution
of community association disputes, taking local community standards into
consideration. Spears also reported that Rep. Andy Gardiner's HB 679
(Sen. Bill Posey is filing the Senate companion bill) is aimed at solving
some of the problems in FS 720 raised by homeowners at the hearing --
non-payment of board members, disclosure to potential home buyers of the
existent Community Development Districts, and certification that board
members are familiar with an association's documents prior to assuming a
seat on the board. There was no time to discuss the bill's
amendments to FS 718.
members heard as well many suggestions regarding legislative changes that
owners think are necessary to stop the abuse in the associations. But the
number one request was always: ENFORCEMENT OF THE LAWS AND
ACCOUNTABILITY OF THE PEOPLE IN CHARGE. Does that sound like the
"whining of a few disgruntled owners"?
meeting is best summarized with the words of Chairman Julio Robaina (quote): “The
turnout of the meetings held thus far throughout the state are a clear
indication of the considerable problems concerning condominium and
homeowners association property owners and the need for this Select
Committee. The Committee members and myself are determined to continue to
work diligently listening to the serious issues plaguing condominiums and
homeowner’s associations throughout Florida and implementing legislation
in to provide an effective solution.”