Saturday, November 24, 2012


By Jan Bergemann Published November 2, 2012 To be very honest, I am at a total loss when I look at the HOA Act the Florida legislature created with FS 720. Sometimes I wonder why they created this statute at all, considering that the provisions contained in this statute have no teeth -- and it is widely known that even the best laws are useless without any proper enforcement tools. The history of FS 720 clearly shows that enforcement of its provisions is only possible for homeowners who have lots of spare change in their pockets. The biggest “joke” in the statutes is one sentence. Many good families lost their homes and life savings because the following sentence headlines the whole Florida HOA Act: FS 720.302(2) The Legislature recognizes that it is not in the best interest of homeowners' associations or the individual association members thereof to create or impose a bureau or other agency of state government to regulate the affairs of homeowners' associations. In all honesty, the only ones served by this sentence are specialized attorneys and their bank accounts – to the detriment of the homeowners living in these community associations. While the FLORIDA CONDO ACT (FS718) has many detailed provisions that can be partially and easily enforced by a regulatory agency (Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes), approximately 2.5 million homeowners living and/or owning property in these homeowners’ associations are treated like unwanted stepchildren by the Florida legislature. With the existing, unenforceable statutes in place, it’s a financially risky proposition for retirees and investors to buy property within these communities. Homeowners are left to fight for themselves with no help to enforce the existing laws. Simple matters, such as elections, record requests or financial issues, turn into expensive lawsuits that can quickly become monsters eating up families’ life savings. Many homeowners run around with blinders, ignoring permanent violations of Florida statutes, because they don’t want to risk spending their last dime on legal bills. The proper legislation that would make life in homeowners’ associations much easier – and less expensive – is in place, but only for condominium associations. The provisions contained in FS 720 are stacked against the homeowners, especially since in many associations budget shortfalls caused by unpaid dues and/or foreclosures are causing heavy financials burdens on the owners still paying their dues. High legal bills are creating an even bigger hardship on the owners still paying the ever-increasing assessments, caused by the fact that the provisions contained in the HOA Act FS 720 provide no easy solutions for simple disputes. The question that baffles everyone: Why is the Florida legislature unwilling to enact simple laws that would stop most of these shenanigans we are all reading about daily in the media? The established wording from the condo statutes could easily be used for the HOA statutes. Case law and the Florida Administrative Code is in place. Nobody has to reinvent the wheel. But who fights these bills that would simplify life in HOAs in Florida? The only feasible explanation: The service providers, especially the attorneys that claim to lobby for the associations. They are the only ones who benefit from these useless HOA statutes. It is definitely easier to fleece the owners if the laws are confusing and can be interpreted any way anybody wants. With the statutes for HOAs it is very easy to create mini-dictatorships and fill their own pockets – if some determined folks so desire. Is that what the folks who “invented” homeowners’ associations had in mind when they created these communities? Comment by Lew Sears - November 03 2012 @ 11:29 am This is an interesting article and I am glad you wrote this Jan. I also have been amazed at how the HOA's operate with essentially no enforcement. To me it seems so simple. If you are going to have rules you should also have a simple effective way to resolve disputes that does not require lawyers and large fees. Home owners are being denied their rights by virtue of the fact that it costs a small fortune to fight even relatively simple disputes with HOA's. User rating: (user did not rate) Comment by Stephen Cluney - November 11 2012 @ 06:08 am Jan, Excellent comments and you are right on target. When are these Florida Legislatures going to wake up and do whats right for the homeowners in an HOA's in Florida. We need to all get together and get after these legislatures to sponsor a bill to get these necessary changes completed ASAP. Without these changes, all it does is over load the courts and make all these HOA attorneys fat rich. It's time to stop talking about it and get this done!