Good news hard to find in recent session of Legislature

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Joe Kollin

Published May 16, 2007


Residents of homeowner and condo associations got some good news this legislative session -- but not much.

Legislators said homeowner associations and co-ops can join with condos to form self-insurance pools for windstorm protection as a way to save money (HB 7031). It takes at least three associations to form a pool.

The Legislature also approved a bill that would require homeowners association boards to give owners 45 days to pay an overdue assessment before a lien can be filed (CS/SB 1844). Now, no notice is required.

Another measure would make it easier for developers to buy out a condo and replace it with a new high-rise, even if old-timers in the building don't want to move (CS/SB 314). Initially proposed as a way to make it easier to replace a building destroyed by a storm, under the approved bill, 80 percent of owners can decide to sell the property just because it is old.

Legislators also approved a measure that would let a community whose covenants lapsed a few years ago become a homeowner association again -- even if some owners bought their homes because they wanted to live in a neighborhood without an association (CS/SB 902).

These bills now go to Gov. Charlie Crist for approval or veto.

But the news was not as good for those hoping for the right to hang a religious symbol on a condo door, or to keep a medically necessary pet or to be protected from foreclosure over a $25 late fee.

The recently ended 60-day session of the state Legislature didn't approve those bills.

Other measures that didn't pass: creation of a state ombudsman for homeowners; clarification of owners' right to have hurricane shutters; a limitation on the right of condo boards to enter an owner's bedroom; and a prohibition on associations requiring buyers to prove their financial worth.

Those who represent unit owners say legislators were anti-owner this year.

"They passed nothing. The leadership was against anything that was consumer friendly," said Jan Bergemann, president of Cyber Citizens for Justice (, a volunteer organization that successfully lobbied legislators in previous years to rein in the power of boards.

Those who represent boards called the session productive.

"It was a successful session, good bills were passed to benefit associations," said attorney Yeline Goin, the new co-executive director of CALL, the Community Association Leadership Lobby ( The lobbying group is an arm of the Becker & Poliakoff law firm that represents 4,300 associations.


Q Dick Weinstein, a director in the West Lakes Home Owners Association west of Boca Raton, is concerned about rules banning pickup trucks. His association bans them, but the rules were written before many people used pickups and vans instead of cars, and certainly before Detroit created the pickup-SUV combo and made it a luxury vehicle.

Although Weinstein's board let two owners have luxury vehicles that are partly pickup, he wants to know where to draw the line. Should a pickup, van or combo without commercial signs be allowed even if a rule prohibits them?

A We asked William Sklar, a West Palm Beach attorney who specializes in community association law and was co-chairman of the 2003-2004 Florida Homeowners' Association Task Force.

The board should be uniform and consistent in its implementation of existing rules, he said. Typically, restrictions are based on commercial markings on vehicles and the state's classification of vehicles, which are based on weight.

Because of the popularity of luxury SUVs, most of those vehicles are not considered commercial, which would be restricted, he said. Therefore, the board should consider updating and revising its rules to take into account such items as commercial markings and weight limitations, as well as whether the vehicle has a full passenger compartment as opposed to being mostly a pickup or service-use. That would constitute a commercial vehicle and be restricted.

Staff Writer Joe Kollin discusses condo and homeowner association issues in this space every other Wednesday. Please let us know those issues that concern you. E-mail us at or call 954-385-7913 in Broward or 561-243-6503 in Palm Beach County. Kollin has covered condo and homeowner association issues in the Sun-Sentinel since 1986.