PLANTATION -- February 19, 2005

By Jan Bergemann

Published February 24, 2005


More than 400 interested citizens filled the clubhouse in Ft. Lauderdale West on Saturday afternoon, February 19, when Representative Franklin Sands, who had organized this town hall meeting, opened it with a big "Thank-You!" to the board of directors of the host association.


An attentive audience listens to the explanations of the panel members.

Despite very little advertising by the local papers, a big crowd had gathered to ask questions and to receive information -- and to discuss of some serious complaints. This just shows that there is huge concern about this issue, despite opponents of reforms who always claim that “just a few disgruntled owners” are stirring the pot.  Definitely not so!  Representative Julio Robaina made it very clear when he asked the question: "How many of you are here because there are problems in your association?"  Hands were raised all over the place!  "Oops, wrong question.  Let's rephrase: How many of you are here from associations that don't have problems?"  Result of this question?  Only one lady raised her arm and then looked all around, realizing she was the only one!


After the introduction and some short remarks and explanations by representatives, the members of the panel introduced themselves.  It definitely was a varied mix from all around the state.


From left to right : Keri Rayborn of Rayborn Consultants (Insurance Specialist); Michael Cochran, Division Director Florida Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes; Representative Anne Gannon; Lisa Miller, Office of Insurance Regulations; Patricia Rogers; Condo Ombudsman Dr. Virgil Rizzo; Representative Franklin Sands; Representative Julio Robaina; Representative Irv Slosberg; Marie Buchanan of Consumer Services Florida --  Department of Insurance; Mark Benson, Vice Chairman of the Condo Advisory Council; and Jan Bergemann, President of the Consumer Alliance CCFJ, Inc.


And the audience was definitely not disappointed. More than 70 questions were asked, covering all kinds of association problems, from condos to homeowners' associations. And Representative Julio Robaina made it very clear that more reform bills will be forthcoming in the future. Strengthening the position of the ombudsman, who definitely had the support of the crowd, and placing the homeowners' associations under his umbrella, will be the immediate goals.


Representative Franklin Sands explained to the audience that reforms take time and not all can be achieved in one or two years, but he made the promise that the legislators will work hard to create the reforms necessary to improve the flawed system.


We heard from owners from many parts of Florida, complaining about many different problems.  Main issue -- board members not following the rules.  We heard of embezzlement, kickbacks and private agendas -- but all in all it was lack of enforcement of the rules and statutes that created the biggest problems. It seems, wherever you go, the complaints are the same. I heard these complaints during meetings of the HOA Task Force, and I hear them daily by phone and e-mail. The system is flawed and without real enforcement by a government agency we will see no changes.


The audience listens and/or reads the CCFJ, Inc. flyer:


This was another meeting that clearly showed that many owners are looking for reforms to return peace and quiet back into our homes.  And it made it clear that we owners need to work together to find a way that will create the necessary laws -- and enforcement of such -- that will level the playing field and help us to get back a neighborhood we all like to call HOME!


It shouldn't be board members against owners.  It is time that we recognize that we are all owners -- nothing else!  We need to work together and form the alliance we need to create the rules we can all easily live by!  It is our money that is wasted on abusive lawsuits!  It is our environment and only we owners have a vested right!  Please always remember that!


It was an excellent organized meeting -- thanks to Representative Franklin Sands and his tireless legislative assistant, Vanessa Smith.  In the name of all owners, I would like to thank the Representatives and all panel members for attending and for listening to the concerns of the owners.  Exchanging opinions will help all of us to find a middle-way to create the necessary reforms.


Together we will be able to make the right decisions and work for the betterment of living conditions in Florida's associations! UNITED WE STAND!