By Jan Bergemann

Published October 26, 2012


Reading the provisions created by the Florida legislature in FS 720.306, supposedly regulating elections in homeowners’ associations, will confuse everybody, even specialized association attorneys. The wording in these provisions is a lesson in “How to confuse everybody and allow anything board and/or manager want to do.” Even cheating is obviously allowed, considering some of the arbitration rulings we have seen.


Imagine an election being certified where a multitude of falsified ballots was proven – and even punishing the owners who filed a complaint about election fraud by forcing them to pay the legal fees?


In a recent case owners proved that minimum six of the ballots counted were fraudulent, not signed by the owners of the units. These owners even filed affidavits that they didn’t vote at all in this election. The arbitrator took the easy way out: Even if these six ballots were fraudulent, it was not enough to change the outcome of the election. Instead of investigating further – or demanding a new election to be held – the arbitrator found in favor of the association that allowed this fraud to happen – and awarded them the legal fees. Fair elections? NOT in HOAs!


Florida is famous for botching elections, not only in homeowners’ associations. Shouldn’t that bad reputation cause legislators to create laws – minimum in homeowners’ associations – that are easy to follow and will close a lot of loopholes used to cheat with elections?

It really isn’t difficult, considering that the Florida Condo Act (FS 718) contains the perfect wording and there is extensive case law that people can fall back on in case of doubt? But instead of using proven language to create laws that would establish fair election laws, Florida legislators listened to some attorneys that were obviously lobbying for the Attorney Full Employment Act.


There is a long list of complaints about the confusing election provisions.  Nearly every day I get some sort of complaint about election issues – from boards unwilling to hold elections to cancelled elections due to lack of quorum. There are no enforcement, no real rules and no clear language when it comes to annual elections in HOAs.


Funny enough, legislators hearing complaints about abuses in homeowners’ associations tell these complaining owners to “vote these bums out” or just recall them. That’s easier said than done. Since the laws allow just about anything, it’s up to the board and/or manager to make the rules. From nominating committees that only nominate the sitting board members to “you have to be present at the meeting in order to vote” – we have heard it all. And since the statutes require a quorum of 30% of the voting membership – very few bylaws allow a lower percentage – there are many associations that didn’t have elections in the last ten years. And even if a quorum may be present at the meeting, some boards quickly claim that no quorum is present and send everybody home, without even making an attempt to call another meeting with elections.


We always laugh about elections in Banana Republics, even send former U. S. presidents to supervise elections in foreign countries. Believe me, the elections in these Banana Republics are fairer than the ones in Florida ’s homeowners’ associations. And these homeowners can’t even ask for a former president – or even a simple election monitor to conduct fair elections. Why are our politicians so concerned about fair elections in foreign countries if we can’t even have fair elections in our homeowners’ associations?


And that is exactly the reason why the existing election provisions in FS 720 should be replaced by the election provisions from the Condo Act [FS 718.112(2)(d)].


Is that too much to ask for? FAIR ELECTIONS?

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Jan Bergemann

Jan Bergemann is president of Cyber Citizens For Justice, Florida 's largest state-wide property owners' advocacy group. CCFJ works on legislation to help owners living in community

associations. He moved to Florida 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 Tallahassee - 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 Florida 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 in Florida !

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