THE GOOD -- THE BAD -- OR THE REAL UGLY!

COMMENT

HB 391 -- Representative Carl Domino (R-83 -- Palm Beach County)

 

An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc. 

May 6, 2006

The dice are cast, the ugly bill passed House and Senate -- as expected. But we owners know whom to thank for it -- not only the sponsor, Representative Carl Domino, but as well the House Majority Leader, Andy Gardiner. They had help from certain legislators and lobbyists, who will be duly noted on our upcoming list called:  Who-Not-To-Vote-For!

If the bill didnít contain a few good financial provisions for homeowners, it would be an easy decision to say: 

Let's get the letters out to the Governor to VETO this actual real ugly bill!

But The Powers That be knew why they added some good parts from Representative Jeff Kottkamp's bill (HB 839) to this bill. Thank you, Representative Kottkamp, for your good intentions!

 

Maybe we should join Florida's Fire Chiefs who will make a concentrated effort to urge Governor Bush to veto this bill?

 

Again, the time limit for retrofitting the sprinkler system in high-rise condos (above 75 feet) was postponed -- this time to 2025. I can understand why the fire chiefs are upset!  Their workers have to go into these buildings and try to save many disabled and elderly people that can't save themselves. They are putting their lives at risk, but the Powers That Be refuse to spend the money for modern equipment!  How many residents -- and fire fighters -- have to die before our legislators realize that there is a sensible time limit to postponing modernization of fire security equipment?

 

The excuse used this time: Recent hurricane damage put a serious financial strain on condo owners!  Maybe the attorneys who are pushing this "money-saving" postponement should come up with some other "money-saving" ideas?

 

But no, they rather choose to risk the lives of our many disabled and elderly condo owners and our fire fighters, instead of considering some legal remedies that would save associations lots of money.  But it seems that these attorneys don't consider finding solutions to improve legislation that would create relief for many of our litigation-riddled condo associations. 

I guess that would be too much to ask for?

 

But an even worse provision was created with just a few lines: 712.11††Covenant revitalization.--A homeowners' association not otherwise subject to chapter 720 may use the procedures set forth in ss. 720.403-720.407 to revive covenants that have lapsed under the terms of this chapter.

It sounds harmless, looks real good -- who could be against revitalization? There is a lot more than meets the eye!

 

This will affect a lot more people -- people who are mostly not aware what will hit them like a freight train! The people pushing this issue knew exactly why they fought an amendment creating on opt-out clause. They know that the opt-out clause in FS 720.407(5) has long expired -- since October 2005! 

That leaves people who don't want to participate in these associations -- there are owners who bought into these communities because the deed-restrictions had expired -- to file lawsuits to avoid being part of these "revitalized" communities. 

    

Specialized attorneys always use contract law as their "Holy Bible". They even claim it supersedes the United States Constitution. See Four Rivers case in NJ. Here a contract is being forced on unwilling people -- without asking for their signature -- since there is no longer an option to OPT-OUT!

And we will see many attempts where this provision will be used to create new "mandatory" associations, trying to sneak it by the Department of Community Affairs, which was already in over its head when it received revitalization requests under FS 720.407!

This is a clear violation of private property rights. They give it (Eminent Domain bills) -- and they take it away (HB 391). 

Mandatory Mediation? No more! Most issues of importance to protect homeowners were removed from mediation requirements by this bill!

Not to speak about the changes in this bill regarding serving of an offer for presuit mediation. Some of these specialized attorneys, who often seem to have "problems" following the statutes, saw their filed lawsuits thrown out of courts because they failed to follow mandatory mediation requirements. Now they came up with some tricky ideas to circumvent these problems and make each other even richer. I can assure you, homeowners don't want to go to the "proposed mediators" you will see on these pre-suit mediation offers. Not only are they charging outrageous fees, their record of successfully mediating problems is anyway very low!

Another Get-Rich-Quick Scheme for attorneys!

 

Opinions please? Are the financial provisions for homeowners worth the many disadvantages of the bill? Please let me know at: jan@ccfj.net

This legislative session in Tallahassee made it very clear: We need to vote for legislators who are willing to make decisions favoring our pocketbooks, not that of special interests! Some of them feel pretty safe in their cozy districts. But one day they want to get higher up and they have to face the music we are playing! It's not a matter of Republican or Democrat. There is good and bad on both sides of the fence! We have to vote for legislators willing to represent our interests -- not only before BUT AFTER THE ELECTION!

And since our election laws don't make it easy to support the good guys -- we will go this year with a list named: Who-Not-To-Vote-For!

It will just list all the candidates that you as a Florida homeowner and/or condo owner only want to vote for if you hate your wallet! Stay tuned!


FINAL VERSION HB 391

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