Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Published February 3,
BEACH - The first Florida conference to educate owners and legislators
about the need for rewriting Florida's condo and homeowner association
laws drew nearly 400 people Saturday.
"The biggest problem we see is the total lack of enforcement and
accountability of the people in charge of our money," Jan Bergemann,
president of Cyber Citizens for Justice, told the audience gathered in the
clubhouse at Century Village East.
Bergemann's volunteer organization, which lobbies for laws to rein in the
power of condo and homeowner association boards, sponsored the conference
whose speakers included advocates for reforming state laws. They included
former state condo ombudsman Virgil Rizzo and the Houston lawyer who wrote
the American Association of Retired Persons' Bill of Rights for Homeowners
he had come to listen to help decide what laws need fixing was state Rep.
Julio Robaina, R-Miami, chairman of the new House Select Committee on
Condominium & Homeowner Association Governance. His seven-member
committee last weekend held the first of five statewide public hearings to
get the owners' side of things.
This time Robaina listened to suggestions for legislation to protect
owners from boards, something once difficult to do in Tallahassee because
of lobbying by advocates of the status quo.
"Now we have a large number of legislators who know we need new
laws," Robaina said.
Robaina, whose committee's only remaining South Florida public hearing is
next Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Miami Beach, listed six areas
where he said state laws need rewriting. They include making training
mandatory for board members so they know their duties and
responsibilities, empowering the state to better enforce condo and
homeowner laws, requiring more transparency by boards in their proceedings
and improving election monitoring.
The lawmaker warned contented owners not to relax.
"You may be in heaven now, but you're one election away from being in
hell," he said.
Vera Fiore, a director of an association in Century Village of Deerfield
Beach, said she liked hearing that Robaina will try to make training
mandatory so directors know their jobs.
"It would give the rest of the residents confidence in the
board," she said.
David Kahne, hired by the AARP's Public Policy Institute to write the Bill
of Rights, said owners are starting to have an impact on laws.
"The issue is of emerging importance for all Americans, and for too
long only one point of view was heard," he said. "The
association perspective was widely published; it has been only in recent
years that the homeowner's voice has begun to be heard."
That's necessary, Kahne said, because "we don't want associations
infringing on our basic rights. If you're going to have power over my life
you have to respect me and let me be myself, that's why I buy a