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

Published September 6, 2009


Homeowners' activists from other states have warned us before. So did many media articles that were forwarded to us from other states. The warning read: BEWARE OF ASSOCIA!


Let's start with an explanation: ASSOCIA is not really a company.  Associa is a fictitious business name for Associations, Inc. - Senator Carona's holding company for all his HOA businesses. For many years Texas homeowners have complained that Texas State Senator John Carona is using his office to push favorable community association bills that help his business interests!


There are lots of newspaper articles describing problems with management companies that are part of the ASSOCIA network. Here are two examples:


Neighborhood regaining its self-respect

Harris County DA investigating homeowners’ claim that their former management firm mishandled things

Homeowners Associations Gone Wild


But John Carona's ASSOCIA doesn't only supply management services; they have as well their own bank: 

First Associations Bank

For more explanations please visit: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

ASSOCIA as well supplies services as insurance agents under various names, like: 

Association Policyholders, Inc.

These entities actually only collect insurance premiums.


Full service corporation you would say?
Actually, I think it can create a serious conflict of interest if it comes to the required bidding process. 


This is the alleged Modus Operandi of ASSOCIA -- according to media articles and warnings of homeowners' activists from other states:

  • Help gullible or power-hungry members to be elected to the board or stay in power.

  • Take over the power from the board members with feel-good statements.

  • Create amendments to the governing documents that allow a small minority to amend the governing docs. 

  • Make sure that the association funds are under the supervision of the management company.

  • Flood the neighborhood with violation letters.

That was obviously a pattern that was reported in media articles from Texas, Nevada and California. Together with the complaints of owners that the management company failed to properly maintain the neighborhood. A recent article in the Houston Chronicle reported (quote): "Harris County DA investigating homeowners’ claim that their former management firm mishandled things."


According to the ASSOCIA WEBSITE there are currently four management companies in Florida that are part of the ASSOCIA Network:


12650 Whitehall Drive
Fort Myers, FL 33907

3050 Horseshoe Drive North Unit 275
Naples, FL 34104

Community Management Professionals
5401 S. Kirkman Road -- Suite 450
Orlando, FL 32819

800 Celebration Avenue -- Suite 224
Celebration, FL 34747

Association Services of Florida
10112 USA Today Way
Miramar, FL 33025

CMC - Jacksonville
7400 Baymeadows Way -- Suite 317
Jacksonville, FL 32256


Early this year the owners of a condo association in Jacksonville smelled the rat in time. They felt that their sitting board was -- together with the management company -- up to no good and recalled the board. The new board's first action: Fire the management company!


It looks like the latest takeover of a homeowners' association is planned in the L'ETOILE HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATION in Hollywood.


An Associa member company
As Managing Agent for: L'ETOILE HOA

the membership is asked to change the requirements for amending the declaration from 66-2/3% of the total membership to "the affirmative vote or written consent of a majority of the voting interests of the Membership present in person or by proxy at a meeting at which a quorum is present". 


Florida statutes FS 720.306(1)(a) require 30 percent of the total voting interests to constitute a quorum at a meeting of the members. If the required quorum of 30% is present (or represented by proxy) and only a majority of these owners is needed to amend the declaration, we are down to 16% of the whole membership to approve any amendment. Huge difference between 66-2/3% and 16%?


A very small minority could now amend the declaration, adding horrible power-grabbing provisions to the governing documents.


If the proposed amendment passes and if the modus operandi continues, the board will quickly be advised by ASSOCIA to change the bylaws and require a lower percentage for a quorum at a membership meeting -- as allowed by FS 720.306(1)(a): "Unless a lower number is provided in the bylaws, ......" Then suddenly a tiny minority can call the shots! And the total power is in the hands of just a few!


In my opinion this is an obvious attempt to hand the whole association power over to a small group of owners, taking any decision-making power away from the membership. Only members who favor living under a dictatorship can actually favor such an amendment.


But it gets worse if you read the reason given for this "much needed" amendment.

This amendment is for the purpose of charging home owners for the related Attorney fees when they are in violation of the Rules and Regulations.
** Every owner of the Association will have to continue to pay for the legal fees that result from the owners who are in violation being sent to the Attorney for compliance.
** In addition, for large attorney costs, special assessments may be required, which will be charged to homeowners. Please help the Board to keep costs down by having the owners who are in violation pay for their own legal fees.

How can a simple amendment reducing the percentage of votes required to amend the declaration have an impact on the legal fees? This amendment is just the beginning. 

What follows will be much worse: 

Since 2004 Florida statutes FS 720.305(2) state: "A fine shall not become a lien against a parcel." 

That didn't sit well with many attorneys and management companies and they are trying to circumvent the law. Easy enforceable fines have always served as a great way to shut up outspoken homeowners or owners who didn't stand at attention as soon as board members, managers and attorneys said so. And it was always a great source of income for the folks pushing "violation" enforcement!

Please read: SOME CALL IT ENFORCING DEED RESTRICTIONS -- OTHERS CALL IT HIGHWAY ROBBERY! This article shows what horrible effect amended declarations can have. Please note: As an owner you are still liable for the attorney's fees -- no matter if the so-called violation was just bogus!

Here is another example of a letter of a manager to an owner threatening with a fine. "If the violations are not corrected as requested a fine of $100.00 per day not to exceed a $1000.00 maximum as allowed by State law will be imposed against your home. If a fine is imposed, invoiced and not paid your monthly maintenance fees will be used to satisfy the outstanding fine leaving your homeowners' association account delinquent. If your homeowners' association maintenance account becomes delinquent more than 90 days, the account will be turned over to the associations attorney who will proceed with the filing of a lien against the home. If a lien is filed, all attorney's fees and court costs will be the responsibility of the home owner."

Even if this manager is going totally overboard, it shows how far some of them are willing to go -- to the detriment of the homeowner.

These are just some examples of what amendments can do -- turning a neighborhood community into a dictatorship where a "managing agent" will run the show!

In case you haven't read enough, here is the icing on the cake. The last sentence of the section that is supposed to be amended -- actually 98% of it will plainly be deleted -- says (quote): "This  section may not be amended." I'm not a lawyer and didn't pass the BAR exam, but wouldn't that clearly mean that this section can't be altered or changed? Most likely some smart lawyer will come along saying that this doesn't amend this section -- it deletes it. Point taken, but Merriam Webster says as explanation for the word amend: "to alter formally by modification, deletion, or addition." How much clearer does it get?

And in case you missed it, the NOTICE OF SPECIAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING reads: "Thirty percent (30%) of all association members (a "quorum") must be present, in person or by proxy, at the meeting, in order for the business to be conducted."

In my opinion they still need the vote of approval of 66-2/3 percent of the total membership to pass the planned amendment of the section, which, according to the declaration, can't be amended. The new provisions are not in effect until the majority of the membership votes in favor -- if it can legally amended at all!

I sincerely hope the membership of the L'ETOILE HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATION will smell the rat before it's too late! This is power mongering at its worst!

Homeowners really should think twice before voting in favor of such an amendment. It's a sure bet to financial disaster. 

This is a typical example for the actions homeowners’ activists warned us about when talking about ASSOCIA: GRABBING POWER STEP BY STEP!

Florida's condo owners and homeowners beware: Senator John Carona's ASSOCIA is coming to town. Hold on to your wallets!