Orange County Homeowners' Association ( OCHA )
An Industry Side-Kick?
An Opinion by Jan Bergemann

If you are a homeowner living in an association in Orange County, FL. there is a good chance that your association belongs to an organization named OCHA - Orange County Homeowners Association. Not only are they not a homeowners association, as the name implies, they obviously are a side-kick of the CAI, the Community Association Institute - the trade organization of the HOA industry! If you read the list of OCHA board members it becomes apparent that the people running the show are industry partisans, not homeowners like you and me. Just look at the letters behind their names or which firm they belong to.

After this conclusion it's easy to figure out that your money may be partially used to defeat homeowner-friendly bills in Tallahassee in co-operation with the Florida Legislative Alliance, a committee of the Community Associations Institute. This group is headed by well-known attorneys like Joseph Adams of Becker & Poliakoff and Paul Wean of Wean & Malchow, P.A., who is as well a member of OCHA's Legislative Affairs Committee.

If you are a homeowner in Orange County, ask your board members at the next meeting, if your association pays membership dues to OCHA and if your board members know where this money is being used for?

This connection is obviously "Spear"-headed by a former Washington operative and Member of the CAI Board of Trustees, Richard Spears. He is as well a former OCHA President and the Registered Agent for this organization.

In the March newsletter he wrote an article under the Headline "No More Foreclosure?" in which he attacked our organization by calling our members  "anti-HOA anarchists" and made up some stories which are absolutely untrue. It seems that he actually didn't get one homeowners' bill right, filed for the last legislative session. His excuse : he got wrong information from  CAI-FLA, "an organization he absolutely trusts". I guess because he is part of it?

The Board of CCFJ decided to ask for an apology in a letter sent to Richard Spears and the OCHA board members. Please read the copy of the letter :

Jan W. Bergemann
President CCFJ, Inc.
3345 Kings Rd. S.
Saint Augustine, Fl. 32086
Phone: (904)XXX-XXXX

Saint Augustine, 5-25-2002

By Mail and E-Mail

Re: Your article “No more foreclosures?” in the OCHA Newsletter March 2002

Richard Spears

Mr. Spears,
We absolutely understand a difference of opinions, but calling the members of our organization “anti-HOA anarchists” is taking it in my opinion a little far. Actually I consider it libel under the given circumstances. Especially considering the fact that the statements you’re making in your article under the headline “ No more Foreclosure? “ are more or less a matter of your imagination.

Considering the fact that you write in your response to Mr. Janauskas : “First, when the FLA officials tell me that something has been filed at your request and legislative staff conform it, I tend to believe them.  I do not check with organizations such as yours because I do not trust them.  Sorry, but that's the way it is.”

May be you should have checked out the information given to you by the FLA – they obviously can’t be trusted - before you signed your name under it! There is no such bill as you describe in your article “in the hopper” and your following statements are absolutely false.

If you would have bothered to check out the sources of information before calling our members anarchists, you would have immediately realized that we are using the correct way as described in our Constitution to change certain things we don’t like. Last I checked that is the way it should be done in a democracy! Approach the legislators to ask for changes? If I’m wrong, please correct me!

If people make unfounded and hurtful statements about others, without accepting responsibility for their actions, anarchy is the inevitable result. Therefore I request an apology for your statements to the members of CCFJ, Inc., not only on the OCHA WebPages, but as well in the next OCHA Newsletter on the front page.
I feel that is not too much to ask for under the given circumstances.
I’m looking forward to your prompt response.

With best regards

Jan Bergemann
Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.

CC :   Orange County Homeowners Association, Inc.
           Directors of the Board Orange County Homeowners Association, Inc. 
           Members of Cyber Citizens for Justice, Inc.
           Interested Parties

As expected, no answer! These people seem to be too arrogant to respond, even if it is obvious that they made serious mistakes. But people in their position don't feel like they should apologize to fellow citizens. Why taking responsibilities? It's easy to slander, but for some "Egos" it's difficult to take the responsibility.

There would be the possibility to file a libel-suit in court, but since one of our main goals is to minimize the amount of law-suits, we feel it's more appropriate to inform the public about these issues.

It is and will be our goal for the legislature to create a Task Force for Mandated Property Reform. The idea behind it is to get all involved parties - Developers, HOA industry and HOMEOWNERS - at the same table to discuss possible solutions in the interest of all parties involved. Since 1995, when FS 617.301-312 ( now FS 720.301-312 ) was created, no reasonable changes have been made. It is about time, especially since many flaws have been discovered and the amount of law-suits in associations is rising on a daily basis! There is no easy enforcement to these statutes and not many homeowners have the financial means to fight violations of these statutes in civil courts.

The industry, like CAI, loves to accuse grass roots organizations like ours of being enemies of associations and claim that our goal is dissolving all associations, causing a total loss of property values. By the way, a recent well researched study showed that properties outside associations rose faster than inside. 

This is about as far from the truth than the industry's fairy tale that they are representing homeowners. Have you ever heard of a trade organization representing the interest of the consumer?

If it really would be our goal to dissolve all associations, why would we bother to push for legislative homeowners' association reforms? You will not find this "goal" mentioned, but you will find many suggestions and ideas to reform the existing laws on our WebPages. The members of our organization are not just ranting and raving, but we are making proper suggestions for necessary changes, including prefiled bills. More and more homeowners all over Florida find out the hard way that the system in place totally fails them and their American Dream turns into a Nightmare!

Reforms are desperately needed and since the industry is determined to instruct FLA’s lobbyists to "beat this one with a stick until its dead!” - meaning any homeowner-friendly bill-proposals -  we need the help of all the homeowners afflicted by these problems.
It is already some help, if you let your board know that you don't appreciate that your association dues are being used to support organizations like OCHA, run by the industry - fighting against homeowners' rights!

Please read : What is OCHA ?
For more articles about the HOA industry please click here!