Cortes to continue House fight for HOA reform

Article Courtesy of The Osceola News-Gazette

By Ken Jackson

Published April 11, 2016


Despite their best efforts, local legislators were not able to pass a bill to the Florida Senate floor regarding relief and recourse for homeowners against their homeowners associations (HOAs) during the recently-completed session.

That was the report from Rep. John Cortes (D-Kissimmee) at Tuesday’s Osceola Legislative Update at Osceola Heritage Park. He’s been working particularly closely with residents of Poinciana who have made claims of high fees charged by the their HOA, the Association of Poinciana Villages, on delinquent accounts and threats of foreclosing on homes to recoup those fees.

He and fellow county representative Mike La Rosa (R-St. Cloud) devoted time and ink to three separate bills — House Bill 653, 655 and 657. They had the support of State Sen. Darren Soto (D-Orlando).

Cortes said Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) also sponsored a Senate bill, but all died in committees before reaching the floor of either chamber for a vote.

“I’m not a Republican,” he said, noting the majority party in the state Legislature. “But I’m going to keep pounding away and keep the fight up next session. Our fight got everyone aware of the problems people have with HOAs who’ve run away with unchecked power, which should get us more support for next year.”

Soto is running for the U.S. House this year, and HOA reform isn’t a federal case. But, Soto said at Tuesday’s event that Cortes and those left behind to fight for the cause still have him as an ally.

Soto said HOA reform bills need three components: the ability to count proxy votes; mandating more time that HOAs must give homeowners prior to accessing any penalties or taking action, and a dispute resolution system that doesn’t involve going to court.

That’s just what a resident’s group in Poinciana, the Friends of Poinciana Villages (FOPV) did in March, filing with Department of Business and Professional Regulation and accusing developer Avatar of “unethically and illegally using its control of the Poinciana homeowners association to contract with itself to force members of the association to financially support the interests of the developer.”

The complaint accuses the Poinciana HOA of a breach of the APV covenants and contracts between homeowners and the “developer controlled” APV itself.