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

Published February 22, 2012


The arguments from lawyers of CAN (Katzman Garfinkel & Berger) and CALL (Becker & Poliakoff) trying to explain why their lobbying groups support the Safe Harbor language in H319 have more holes than a Swiss cheese. They quote lawsuits filed against associations by banks for "violations of the Safe Harbor laws" as a reason why this amendment should pass to "protect" associations from this kind of lawsuits. If you want to be nice, you could call these arguments flawed. Otherwise you could call them "HOGWASH."


I would like to hear how passing these amendments, could help associations and still paying owners? Sure, banks will try everything to get out of the liabilities they created when their irresponsible lending practices came back to haunt community associations.


One of the lawsuits quoted names HSBC as plaintiff. Honestly, this bank has a pretty checkered history. Just do a Google search for HSBC lawsuits -- and you will find that HSBC always made it into the headlines -- from Madoff to predatory lending to foreclosures.


But no matter which bank is the plaintiff in these lawsuits, don't you wonder why these two law firms -- whose attorneys are making a really good living by filing and defending lawsuits -- are now suddenly concerned about associations getting sued?

Think about it and you will realize that something stinks like rotten fish!

Just ask yourself the question: "Who would really benefit if these amendments contained in H 319 pass?"


The answer is very simple: BANKS and MORTGAGE LENDERS.


If the bill is enacted with these amendments, the attorneys for the banks will go to the judge and say: "See, we told you so. The Florida legislators just confirmed that the legislative intent has always been that any demand made to lenders after foreclosure should be limited to the lesser of 12 months past dues or 1% of the original mortgage -- nothing else." And the judge might say: "Yes, you are correct -- and that's why I find in favor of the bank!"

But if H 319 (S680) dies a well-deserved death, the association attorney defending the lawsuit could tell the judge: "Banks tried in vain to get the Florida legislators to pass what they called 'clarification language' for the Safe Harbor provisions. That says it loud and clear: The law was never intended to protect banks from further liabilities, especially if the banks dragged out the foreclosure proceedings to avoid responsibility to pay maintenance fees."


What do you think the judge would say now?


No matter what these lawyers claim about their reasons to support the H 319 Safe Harbor amendments, the facts are clear: The Safe Harbor amendments would definitely help the banks and mortgage lenders, the entities that caused the whole financial misery in the first place. Nobody else!


Florida 's legislators should think twice before voting YES on this proposal. There is no doubt that enacting this proposal would support the banks to the detriment of their constituents!


The CAN and CALL lawyers should know better than doing the bidding of the banks. They always claim to lobby FOR ASSOCIATIONS. If H319 is good for associations, one could as well make the claim that smoking is good for your health.


In other words: Florida's legislators have to decide: Do you want to help the banks or your constituents? WHERE IS YOUR PRIORITY?


CAN and CALL lawyers also praise the "Speedy Foreclosure Bill" (H213/S1860) and claim it would seriously help associations to get their money faster. Please read the actual wording of the bill: HOMESTEADED Properties are not part of this speed-up process. And since most of the underwater investor-owned property was foreclosed upon long ago, most of the properties that are going into foreclosure now are homesteaded. And these bills surely don't help associations to collect faster from homesteaded properties.


If Florida's legislators really want to help their approximately 4 million constituents that own property in community associations, they should KILL H 319 and they should include homesteaded property into the provisions of H213/S1860.


Florida's homeowners and condo owners are running out of money to support the banks and mortgage lenders that are responsible for the whole financial misery!