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

Published February 11, 2012 


To be very honest I have barely ever seen more malarkey than the excuses Representative George Moraitis offered to defend his House Bill 319 in the Sun Sentinel last Tuesday, especially after adding amendments to this bill which clearly made it an anti-owner bill.

George Moraitis: Legislation is meant to clarify condo law


Let's start with saying that the bill, when originally filed, had a few good provisions in it. We liked especially the board member certification provision for HOA members and a few other provisions that clarified prior language. With a few changes it could have turned into a good bill that would have really helped associations and owners. All that has been removed from the bill by Rep. Moraitis.


There is absolutely nothing left in the bill that could actually be considered helpful to associations and/or homeowners and condo owners. What Moraitis is calling CLARIFYING is actually adding more PROTECTION FOR BANKS to the statutes -- protections some judges obviously were not willing to grant under certain circumstances.


And when Moraitis stated that he considers Donna Berger one of the premier advocates for association residents I was pretty sure that Moraitis had really lost his mind.


But opinions differ: In my opinion Donna Berger is, together with Peter Dunbar, the NO.1 ENEMY of owners of property in Florida's community associations. Berger fought about every owner-friendly bill that was sponsored in the last 12 years in Tallahassee, first representing Becker & Poliakoff and now as a partner of Katzman Garfinkel & Berger, both community association law firms whose business interests are clearly totally opposite to the interests of the owners in these associations. But Moraitis obviously falls as well for CAN's total misrepresentation of facts claiming that they "represent over 60,000 homeowner and condominium associations throughout the state." This is a plainly ridiculous statement, based on no facts whatsoever. And the fact that Donna Berger and CAN are supporting this totally ill-advised bill shows where she really stands: ANTI-ASSOCIATION and ANTI-OWNER -- PRO HER POCKETBOOK.


Who in his right mind can support a bill with flaws like this? A bill with provisions making community associations even bigger dictatorships than they already are!


1.) Safe Harbor amendments: Protect banks even more, to the detriment of the owners. Excuse used: Fannie Mae regulations! Nothing is further from the truth, because owners would be absolutely happy if the actual Fannie Mae regulations would be adopted for the statutes. Fannie Mae has NO Safe Harbor provisions for homes in HOAs at all, and the only restriction for condos is  6 MONTHS PAST DUES. There is no such restriction like the lesser of 12 months or 1% of the original mortgage in the Fannie Mae guidelines. And believe it or not, most condos would be happy to get 6 months past dues from the banks. The 1% restriction actually limits the pay-off to the condo association by the banks to 3 or 4 months of dues in most cases! If the Safe Harbor protections are needed to fulfill the Fannie Mae regulations for loans -- let's please use these provisions.


2.) H 319 would legalize ELECTION FRAUD. The few words: "Any challenge to the election process must be commenced within 60 days after the election results are announced" will make it impossible to challenge any election. In order to file for arbitration it is necessary to have all election documents. There is no tool in place to force the sitting board to hand over the election documents within 60 days, even if the laws say otherwise. After 61 days the board can hand the election docs to the challenger and laugh at them -- because even if the docs prove that election fraud was committed, the deadline for filing has passed. This is an open invitation for successful election fraud!


3.) The wording of the bill allows the board to suspend the voting rights of foes, but leave the voting rights of friends intact, even if they are more than 90 days in arrears with dues. The wording leaves it up to the board members whose voting rights they want to suspend. And if all else fails, they can levy fines for trumped-up charges and tell opponents: "Either you pay the $1,000 fine, or we suspend your voting rights." Open invitation for dictatorship.


4.) To top off this election scam, the amended wording of the bill fails to create a provision that reduces the number of total voting interest by the number of suspended voting rights. This makes fair elections or even recalls impossible in communities where many owners stopped paying dues or in communities where the board suspended many voting rights. If the board suspends enough voting rights, the board members are protected against any attempt to oust them.


The only thing that could be considered a "high-light" for associations is the provision that allows associations to exempt certain elevators from specific code update requirements. However, this way to save money comes at the expense of safety of the folks living in these condominiums. This provision is most likely aimed at helping associations to save money to pay for the ever-increasing legal bills caused by these ill-advised bills.


In short, there is absolutely nothing in the bill that would help associations/owners deal with the financial mess many associations are in. This bill will create even more financial disaster in Florida's community associations and will cause even more families to lose their homes to foreclosure.


But it seems some legislators don't care about facts or fairy tales. I guess that's the reason why I always say that Florida's voters must all be masochists, asking for more punishment -- when electing a legislator like George Moraitis into office!