THE BIG QUESTION: WHO IS TO BLAME
FOR ALL THE PROBLEMS?
March 24, 2017
I guess the answer to this question depends on who you ask. In
my opinion there are quite a few reasons why the community
association system clearly fails the owners, who are left pretty
much unprotected against abuse, scams, fraud and embezzlement.
Condominiums are supposedly having the Division as a “watch dog”
– but we all know that Division is pretty much useless because
it clearly fails to rein in the abusers. Owners sometimes even
get the feeling that they are rather protecting the abusers.
Then there is the Board of Directors, equipped with nearly
dictatorial powers. And we all know: “Power corrupts – and
more power corrupts even more”. Let’s face it: Many of
the board members are ill equipped for the task at hand. The
system clearly fails to understand that a community association
is a serious BUSINESS, often dealing with quite a
huge budget. Many of the elected board members have no business
experience whatsoever – and it shows. Even well-meaning boards –
the ones with no private agenda or ill-will – often sign
contracts that clearly shows the total lack of business
experience. Millions of owners’ dollars are lost each year due
to total incompetence of board members. And it gets even worse
when the association has board members with private agendas – or
We often hear that boards should listen to the hired service
providers – which leads us to the folks that really profit from
the existence of these community associations: Community
Association Managers (CAMs) and Attorneys.
But these folks are in it for the money and their advice is very
often guided just by this: MONEY!
Many CAMs are ill-equipped and plainly lack the knowledge to
really guide the board members, even if being asked for help.
Over the years we have seen it only too often: A license is
clearly not a sign of knowledge. You wouldn’t believe the
nonsense some of the CAMs write by e-mail to board members (I
often get copies) – basic knowledge of the issues in question
clearly non-existent – or twisted to fit their purpose.
And then there are the ATTORNEYS. These are the
guys who are supposedly equipped with all the legal knowledge to
follow the statutes and rules that govern community
associations. They all have a BAR license, but sometimes I can’t
help getting the feeling that these licenses can be won at the
County Fair. Too many of these attorneys are just driven by one
motif: BILLING HOURS! Make no mistake: Amending
Deed-Restrictions and Bylaws doesn’t cover the office rent.
JUICY LAWSUITS DO! We see it over and over again: Attorneys are
telling board members who are signing their pay-checks: Don’t
worry about ignoring or violating the laws – nothing will really
happen to you for not following the statutes and/or
rules. And we
see – for example – record requests – and presuit mediation
demand (FS 720.311) letters – being ignored and the case dragged
out by these same attorneys I talked about above. That gives the
bad guys even more time to embezzle – or just waste – money
belonging to the owners. Too many bad board members and CAMs are
using the association attorney as their defense to cover up
their wrongdoings, much to the pleasure of these attorneys who
write big bills to be paid by the same owners who try to do
exactly what the laws and rules require. Too many attorneys act
like they are the “private” attorneys of these board members –
and not the association attorney who gets paid by all owners of
the community. And the Florida BAR clearly fails to rein in the
many “BAD APPLES” among these attorneys.
With other words: What’s lacking is serious OVERSIGHT
– for all the players involved – and strict PUNISHMENT
of all the bad guys.
Remember: I was not talking about the “good” guys who are trying
their best to run a good and peaceful community. AND THERE
ARE MANY GOOD GUYS!
I was talking about the “BAD
– the guys
who make the system a disaster for owners and who are at fault
that the Florida legislature is forced each year to deal with
bills trying to improve a system
(so far without success)
that in my opinion can’t be
repaired – no matter how hard you try.
||Jan Bergemann is president of Cyber Citizens For Justice,
's largest state-wide property owners' advocacy group.
CCFJ works on legislation to help owners living in
associations. He moved to
in 1995 - hoping to retire. He moved into a HOA, where the
developer cheated the homeowners and used the association dues
for his own purposes. End of retirement!
CCFJ was born in the year 2000, when some owners met in
- finding out that power is only in numbers. Bergemann was a
member of Governor Jeb Bush's HOA Task force in 2003/2004.
The organization has two websites to inform interested
homeowners and condo owners:
News Website: http://www.ccfj.net/.
Educational Website: http://www.ccfjfoundation.net/.
We think that only owners can really represent owners, since all
service providers surely have a different interest! We are
trying to create owner-friendly laws, but the best laws are
useless without enforcement. And enforcement is totally lacking