Courtesy of The Ledger
Published March 28, 2016
POINCIANA — Legislation aimed at addressing gaps in state
law that have resulted in political and financial disputes in Poinciana and
other communities governed by homeowner associations died in the final days
of the 2016 legislative session.
State Rep. John Cortes, D-Kissimmee, and State Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St.
Cloud, said they will refile legislation in 2017.
Cortes filed HB 1357, which would have offered homeowners who got behind on
assessments a chance to avoid foreclosure or having their delinquent account
turned over to a collection company. It also would have required board
members to disclose financial conflicts of interest and recuse themselves
from voting on those issues, similar to the restrictions that apply now to
elected public officials.
LaRosa filed HB1405, which would have increased transparency in financial
reporting, contracts, bidding and voting records.
Disputes over the sprawling suburban subdivision's finances ended up in
court last year after two board members removed records from the Association
of Poinciana Villages offices and transferred APV funds to another bank
account to prevent what they claimed was financial mismanagement by First
Service Residential, the management company the board majority had hired to
oversee day-to-day operations.
APV officials successfully sued and the money and property were returned.
Meanwhile, there have been complaints about residents facing foreclosure
because their delinquent accounts were turned over to a private company that
allegedly manipulated the legal process to produce fees well beyond the
"I will be back next session trying again," Cortes said via email. "I will
not give up. I have families losing their homes right now and citizens on
fixed incomes who need a voice on bad policies governing HOAs "
Cortes said the problem extends beyond Poinciana.
He and LaRosa said although their legislation progressed in the House
despite opposition from development interests, it had little support in the
LaRosa said these changes typically take more than one session to achieve
and will have to respond to lobbying from interest groups opposed to
Some Poinciana residents had criticized the legislation because it lacked
LaRosa said he deliberately held off proposing enforcement because that
involves seeking appropriations for staffing and technology at the Florida
Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which would have
complicated the bill's review.
Keith Laytham, spokesman for Friends of Poinciana Villages, praised Cortes
and LaRosa for their efforts to change the law.
"They tried their best, but the powers to be blocked them,'' he said.
Laytham said the lack of enforcement forces homeowners to take issues to
court, as they are in a current suit over access to financial information
and election procedures.
They filed the suit in December against APV, Avatar, which is Poinciana's
developer, and the Village One Homeowners Association.
The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the suit, which will be heard
April 7 before Circuit Judge Larry Helms in Bartow.
Laytham said the time and legal costs involved in pursuing a suit is a
deterrent to most homeowner groups.
"Homeowners don't have that much money,'' he said.