By Jan Bergemann
May 27, 2003

Thinking of retiring? Thinking of moving to Florida like so many others before you? Take some good advice from retirees who already made this move:

Considering what is going on in this State, the flag should be changed - maybe like example above?
The whole world got a great laugh out of the election disaster in 2000. Whatever camp you sided with didn't matter. It was embarrassing to live in Florida and be part of this comedy!

But instead of trying to improve things, the comedy continued.  Miami-Dade County just found out that they spent $24.5 million for 7,200 voting machines -- and a system not adequate for the county's needs.

But while many of us are still able to laugh about it, there are many issues in daily life no retiree can laugh about.  Although we may be attractive as the

money-makers of the Florida economy, nobody is willing to protect our rights, especially nobody in Tallahassee.

“Aggressive advertising” was cited as a way to attract retirees to Florida. In July 2002 Governor Bush had created the Destination Florida Commission to evaluate our competitive position to attract retirees and to make recommendations for the future that would make Florida more retiree friendly. A final report showed that “aggressive advertising” would achieve that goal! 

The warnings of many citizens during the public hearings were plainly ignored. Read the final report of this Commission and it becomes obvious that the people in charge are clearly opting for quantity, not for quality!

Who runs the show in Florida?  NOT the citizens!  Industry, especially the housing industry, relies heavily on retirees.  Meanwhile, our state government follows their lead to lure more elderly, trusting people to Florida without improving their living conditions. 

For many years homeowners' activists from all over Florida have called for reforms of the laws regulating the housing industry. There are many laws -- looking great on paper -- but without any teeth. The existing laws are more or less used to appease the consumers who ask questions. Only after you fall for all the great words backed up by fraudulent contracts and promises, you will find out that these laws are more or less unenforceable. Your own money will even help to defend the violations against YOU!

Many Florida Statutes will give consumers a false sense of security.  However, if you do not have large sums of money available to pay for legal fees, your chances to defend your rights are very small.  Even then the outcome of these lengthy and frustrating lawsuits are very dubious, to say the least. 

Retirees in Florida are losing their homes to foreclosure, not because they didn't pay their bills as required, but because the laws of Florida leave them unprotected. 

Little mistakes might cost you your home and your life-savings! 

The nice lady organizing the social potluck dinner in your community might be the wife of the board president of your association. So don't bring the wrong cake! You might find yourself at the wrong side of violation letters -- like bushes not trimmed or too many weeds! And some of these associations are very eager to enforce these "violations" by putting liens on your property and then foreclosing on it. You wouldn't be the first kicked out of your own home by a deputy with your private belongings next to you on the curb.

Just read the many stories about problems in these homeowners' associations or the Condo-wars raging in South Florida!

And there are some real horror stories like the story of the homeowners in the Eagles Reserve HOA in Pinellas County, where most likely more than 120 homeowners will either lose their home or have to pay more than $100,000 on top of the original purchase price. Their pleas to government agencies were ignored.  These citizens, many retirees among them, are left to fend for themselves. An unbelievable example of the huge problems! 

In the last two sessions of the Florida Legislature so-called Task Force bills were introduced. In both cases the members of the Florida House of Representatives made serious efforts  -- 14 members sponsored the bill. But in both years the Senate made sure it failed. While the bill was totally ignored by the Senate in 2002, Senate members in 2003 changed the wording before the first committee hearing and were unwilling to listen to amendment proposals. In the end, homeowners' activists had to ask House members to kill the bill for fear it would do more damage than good! Please read the article:"HOW TO KILL A PERFECTLY GOOD IDEA!"

Our Governor Jeb Bush, who could create a Task Force by executive order to circumvent the obviously non-functioning legislative process, has been approached twice.  So far he has not responded.

Common Sense would dictate, as it does in normal business, that improvements are necessary to attract more retirees. But where is Common Sense? Most likely not in our State's government!

Admittedly, retirees are BIG business.  It is obvious that Florida is trying to attract more retirees to get their money -- without being willing to protect their rights. Retirees from all over the nation should heed the warning of the ones who have already fallen into this trap of a warm climate: 

Stay where you are, even if you have to shovel snow! You're definitely much better off shoveling snow than losing your shirt!