The gutted version of the once excellent House Bill 919 – initially sponsored by Representative JC Porras – passed the House Committee on Commerce with flying colors. The bill passed by a unanimous vote and some of the committee members even added their names as sponsors to the bill.

But if you read the remaining wording it just adds more provisions to FS 720 (HOA ACT) without adding any teeth to the HOA Act. Yes, the bill contains a lot of threats aiming at the "bad guys”, but it’s all talk – no action. The homeowners are still required to fight for themselves, go to presuit mediation, file lawsuits and pay for the cost. What everybody here seems to forget: Many homeowners just don’t have the money to fight their boards. Even if board members and/or community association managers clearly violate the laws, homeowners often don’t have the money to fight for their rights – meaning the violators get away with it – despite all the new fancy wording contained in the bill.

All enforcement provisions contained in the originally filed bill were removed. So were all the provisions that would have protected condo owners. All reference to FS 718 was removed. Meaning condo-owners will have to pay a lot more money monthly (SB 154) but will not have any protection for the quickly increasing funds in the reserve accounts. Kickbacks and embezzlement runs rampant in Florida's condominium, but the Legislature seems to be only concerned about Building Safety, not about the safety of the owners' money!

Ana Danton -- property owner of The Hammocks -- speaks in front of the Commerce Committee

The bill still contains all the provisions regarding “FRAUDULENT VOTING ACTIVITIES” that takes place in HOAs, but the election language allowing cheating in elections is still in FS 720.306. The election provisions in FS 720.306 are so vague that any dictatorial board can stay in power as long as they want and can only be stopped by a recall. Since years we are trying to convince legislators to replace these vague election provisions with the provision of the Condo Act (FS 718.112(2)(d). So far -- no success!

We always heard the example of the Hammocks quoted and quite a few owners from the Hammocks made it all the way to Tallahassee to testify in front of the Commerce Committee (SEE VIDEO). The owners even sent a letter to incoming Speaker Daniel Perez asking him for supporting the original version of the bill.

Dear Representative Daniel Perez, 

As a longtime resident of Westchester, Florida, an Alumni of Christopher Columbus High School, & first elected to the Florida House of Representative in 2017, we look to you for leadership fight to protect Florida homeowners in Homeowner Associations. We urge to you to please champion for our cause and support HB919 in it’s original version.

We’d like your support for HB 919 in its original version. It is an unbelievable fact that lobbyists from companies that serve the community of homeowners under an HOA or Condominium are the ones that are fighting against HB 919. This bill protects ownership in HOA and Condominiums and the good people who would love to serve their community and can't because the corruption is overwhelming.

It is unacceptable that more than fifty percent of the homeowners in the State of Florida are under an HOA or Condo, and they are not protected. We should be represented. We have lost millions of dollars at the hands of corruption; many have lost their homes at the hands of criminals that cover their activities under the umbrella of the law.

As homeowners from the Hammocks Community Association, the largest HOA in Florida, who just suffered at the hands of a corrupt HOA board that allegedly stole $4.3 million dollars from the homeowners and raised HOA fees 400 percent, we beg you to support HB919 in its original version in order to protect all Florida HOA homeowners.

The state attorney's office diligently represents us, the ordinary people. We ask you to support us, the common people living on HOA that become more than 66.7% of our state of Florida.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Concerned HOA homeowners

Our legislators seem to forget that the Hammocks consists of many subdivisions: HOAs and Condos. This bill disallows the board president of an HOA to engage in fraudulent voting activities, but the president of the board in the neighboring condo building is still allowed to do all the things regarding elections his HOA counterpart can no longer do. The bill threatens "election fraud" with a misdemeanor of the first degree, but we all have seen over the years that many State Attorneys are unwilling to prosecute HOA violators, considering problems in HOAs a “CIVIL MATTER”. Where does that leave the homeowner who can prove that election fraud occurred?

The provisions in this bill sound like it’s a big step in the right direction, but without the necessary enforcement all these provisions are again just empty threats that only help homeowners on paper.  

And I guess the so-called service providers are happy with the new toothless version of the bill. Their lobbyists didn’t show up at the committee meeting. Especially the association attorneys are happy with this bill. It surely will create more lawsuits – meaning more income for these “specialized” attorneys.

But I really like one sentence in the new version of HB 919: A fine of less than $1,000 may not become a lien against a parcel. This removes a provision we have been fighting against since the days of the HOA Task Force in 2004. Filing a lien for a fine has often been used to blackmail homeowners who dared to speak out against actions of the board.

The bill still states in Section1.: “This act may be cited as the “Homeowners’ Bill of Rights” but only homeowners who have sufficient money are able to enforce these rights. Rights just for the Rich?