Another OCHA letter?
Some comments by Jan Bergemann - Posted 11 - 28 - 2002

Some people obviously just can't help making a laughing stock out of themselves. During the last legislative session we all read Richard Spears' letter about the alleged pending foreclosure-bill filed by our organization, which only existed in his imagination. The false information was according to him supplied by his friends of the CAI-FLA, the Florida Legislative Alliance of the CAI. Now see his newest letter below. He even congratulates a Senator to his successful re-election, who wasn't up for election at all. It just shows how confused this person obviously is. Lacking any reasonable arguments he just throws around weird accusations, calling homeowners trying to protect their investment "radicals" and "disgruntled", the favorite word used by the industry when running out of reasons.

OCHA                                                            Orange County Homeowners Association

November 21, 2002

Dear Senator xxxxxxxxxx,

                Congratulations on your re-election to the Florida Senate.

                As you doubtless know from past experience, there are a few radical groups across the State who would like to drastically modify single family homeowners associations or, in some cases, abolish them altogether. You’ve likely heard from them and now-and-then a colleague of yours files a bill to deal with the “problem” which, in turn has failed.

              Many of the members and supporters of these groups are homeowners who have been rejected in an application for one thing or another, possibly fined, object to assessments or may have had a rule against their property. The typical scenario then involves an unsuccessful appeal and, not wishing to hire an attorney or submit to the dispute resolution process as set forth in FS 720, the disgruntled homeowner turns to Cyber Citizens for Justice, SHORN, SCORN or other amateur groups who promise relief via the legislative process.

            These folks are much like the fellow whose wife won’t give him a divorce and, being too cheap to hire a lawyer, asks the Legislature to abolish the institution of marriage. As sensible people, we recognize that this is no solution to the man’s problem and, if enacted, would impose profound hardship on all the happily married people in Florida. The same is true of homeowners associations.

            I acknowledge that nobody much likes regimentation and that some homeowners associations are better run than others, but they are established for good and sufficient reasons that have worked well in the State of Florida. In the interest of setting forth the very simple principles involved in establishing and managing mandatory homeowners associations in our State, I’ve attached several very brief explanations for your background information.

           I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read them and bear their principles in mind when these matters arise during this and future sessions of the legislature. Please call me if I can provide further information or be helpful to you or your staff at any time. 

                                                                           Richard L. Spears 
                                                                           Legislative Chairman

Post Office Box 533657 * Orlando, Florida 32853-3657 *  (407) 297-8100

Radicals, disgruntled homeowners, amateurs, complainers, violators of restrictions, abolitionists, contrivers of non-existing problems, rejected by their HOA for some sort of improvement of property, fined by HOA, unwilling to pay their assessments, have been admonished for violating restrictions, cheap, decided not to spend thousands of dollars to pursue the only dispute resolution available in FS 720, a cause of action, sought assistance from consumer advocacy groups instead of running to CAI, mistrust of the legal profession, not sensible, intent upon imposing profound hardships upon happy people, all this is what he accused homeowners of in one short letter. But this and similar accusations are exactly what homeowners are confronted with on a daily basis by CAI members like Richard Spears and other industry partisans. Isn't it understandable that these homeowners turn to advocacy groups instead of being verbally and financially abused by these members and supporters of the industry?

Even the departing President of OCHA acknowledges Richard Spears' "endless" contributions. You might interpret that as him being a busy-body sticking his nose into everybody else's business. In his better times he made himself a name as a CAI executive, known for irrational e-mails putting down homeowners who dared to contradict his opinions. Many of the homeowners feel that busy-bodies like him and his friends, the industry partisans like attorneys and association managers, are the actual downfall of the system. Even if they falsely claim that they are the solution of all the problems, many homeowners feel that they actually are the problem.

OCHA itself is an organization which is run by CAI members, the trade organization of the homeowners' association industry, and are just another cover up for their political activities. OCHA , quoting the words of the outgoing president, will in the future be led by a President who is an Attorney that previously practiced HOA law. Anything else to add?

Their claim that they represent the homeowners in Orange County is obviously false. Many homeowners, they claim to represent, don't even know what CAI and OCHA stands for, much less know who they are. 

He calls the homeowners' activists in Florida amateurs. But I am rather called an amateur than being part of a group which is using Florida homeowners as a permanent cash-cow. The system is being totally abused and the many horror-stories you can read daily in our newspapers tell the whole tale. And some, you don't read in the papers, are even worse. 

His arguments are plainly failing the reasonableness check. And the attachments to his letter are short stories written by professionals of the industry, who are making a living from homeowners  in associations. Not one of them is an endorsement of the system written by a homeowner.

These communities were called homeowners associations for a reason : they were supposed to be run by homeowners with a vested interest in the community they live in. They were not called lawyer association or management association! It is time that homeowners are again in charge of these associations. In many cases the industry partisans are actually in charge and create total confusion. In many associations more than 50% of the actual budget is going for cost of management and legal fees, not for improvement and maintennce as actually intended

All Florida homeowners want is truthful disclosure, the right to obtain their given rights without risking their home and their livelihood to pay legal fees and their homes protected from greedy attorneys and management companies playing games and charging ridiculous fees.

We feel that all this can only be achieved by legislative reforms, the way it is supposed to work in our society. We are not as arrogant as certain other groups who feel that solutions can only be found with their "expertise". Their expertise hasn't gotten us very far. The complaints are growing and so are the attorney- and court costs. It is time that our legislators give homeowners the right to make decisions about their own fate.

So, instead of listening to the industry partisans, who have dollar-signs in their eyes and only profit on their mind, our legislators should listen again to their constituents and let homeowners help to make the decisions regarding the protection of the American Dream - our Home!