DBPR Renews Condo-Education with Community Association Institute

An Opinion By Jan Bergemann
Published 8-30-2004

Education is a very sensitive issue in Florida in these election days. And a headline like:

Free Courses Target Floridians in Condos and Cooperatives

should definitely be very welcome.


But, actually, these courses are not really free, as so nicely advertised. Actually, education courses would already be funded from the money collected in the Florida condo trust fund, paid by every unit owner at the rate of $4 per unit.  And the Community Association Institute is getting big bucks for holding these courses. Plus getting lots of free advertising out of it. It's a great opportunity to recruit new members -- especially unsuspecting owners, who hope to find help by joining this organization. But it takes a while for most of the owners to realize that they are actually on the wrong side of the fence. One obvious example: CAI has always refused to file "amicus briefs" for homeowners, even homeowners who were members of the CAI.


The opinion of a well-informed citizen after reading the press release: "Condo-owners pay $4 to the DBPR to have them hire the CAI to train them to be obedient sheep and deny themselves their Constitutional rights.  SCARY!"

The education we are talking about here is for adults supposed to learn how to run a condominium association. Many conflicts all over the state clearly show that there is a serious need for this kind of education. But obviously these courses should first deal with issues like: "How to be neighborly!" or "Respect your neighbors' rights." Definitely not how to enforce rules, start lawsuits and/or force families out of their homes.


In my opinion a good education depends very much on the teacher - and the willingness of the pupils to learn.

And despite the Community Association Institute making big efforts to cover up the recent clashes with homeowners' activists from California to Florida, it is very obvious that the opinion about how to regulate homeowners' and condo-owners associations totally differ.

But that fact is in my opinion self-explaining. While a trade-organization should represent the members and increase their profits, homeowners just want a peaceful home without being bothered by overzealous boards supported by attorneys and managers. And since amending deed-restrictions is not really a cash cow, some nice, juicy lawsuits will definitely do the trick!

Assigning these service providers to teach classes to educate volunteers willing to improve their communities is definitely comparable with letting the fox guard the hen house.

These are some of  the main players who are running the show for the CAI in Florida and the reason why I feel that they are definitely not qualified to teach “harmony and improve relations” between owners, associations and other related entities.

(Governor Jeb Bush had demanded “harmony and improved relations” when he created the HOA Task Force in July 2003.)

Please don't consider this a negative approach; it's just a summary of facts, provided by public records.

Law firm BECKER & POLIAKOFF P.A., Hollywood:

Found guilty of violating the FAIR DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES ACT - created to protect consumers -- in Federal Court. See: Fuller vs. Becker & Poliakoff


Law firm KATZMAN & KORR, P.A., Lauderhill:
Lawsuit filed for violating the FAIR DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES ACT.



Lawfirm WEAN & MALCHOW, P.A. Southchase 45 Community Association, a former client, filed a serious malpractice lawsuit against this law firm, after a judge ruled that the lawsuit brought by this firm was a "non-judiciable issue of law or fact."



Attorney Steven Mezer, lawfirm BUSH, ROSS, GARDNER, WARREN & RUDY, P.A.

Tampa: His involvement in a dubious foreclosure case, see: HUMAN TRAGEDY?
With Happy Ending
featured on CBS INSIDE EDITION, and his appearance at the HOA Task Force meeting in Tampa in regards to the depressing problems in Nature Watch HOA was sad enough. But arguing that condo rules supersede even constitutional rights would definitely disqualify him from my list of useful educators, if harmony is supposed to be the result.


Attorney Robert Tankel, Dunedin, has chosen as his website address. Guess that says it all? If not, just read the announcement from the St. Petersburg Times, dated December 11, 2003: "Robert Leon Tankel of Dunedin was suspended for 15 days and given 18 months' probation. Tankel, 47, made a false statement while representing a client, the Bar found. "


LELAND MANAGEMENT, INC., Orlando is one of the more prominent CAI management firms. They had a run-in not only with many unhappy homeowners, but as well with the Florida BAR for UPL -- Unlicensed Practice of Law.


If somebody with this credentials would apply for employment as educator, a school board would be really hard pressed to vote in favor of employment.


And with teachers like that nobody should wonder if board members state publicly at open meetings: "The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has no legal standing in our association!" or "Forget about the Constitution, we make our own rules here!"


But in this case it's just the DBPR, a government agency, supposedly -- as the name suggests -- a Department for Business and Professional Regulation. And this year Secretary Diane Carr can't use the excuse that she didn't know better. I had personally talked to her about the fact that condo owners' money shouldn't be spent for education courses like this. Neutral specialists should be hired to teach courses -- under the supervision of the ombudsman's office.  More written information and explanations should be made available to educate volunteers willing to serve on boards and teach condo-owners about their rights. GOOD EDUCATION would in my opinion prevent lots of the condo wars we hear about on a daily basis.


But as in many other cases Secretary Carr chose to listen to the industry, not to the citizens her agency should protect!

Maybe it would be a wise decision for Secretary Carr to resign before the pending OPPAGA investigation reveals further embarrassing details about irregularities in her department. It seems quite a few of her former executives have already resigned after seeing the writing on the wall!


Florida's homeowners and condo-owners are definitely looking forward to this investigation and hope that it will show why so many abuses are going unpunished in Florida's condominiums.