OUR GOALS 2008
Do you and your neighbors have concerns about the way your Homeowners' Association or Condominium Association conducts business?
Do you know what your "rights as a homeowner" are?
(You might be surprised to see how few rights you really have as a homeowner.)
THE MEMBERS OF CYBER CITIZENS FOR JUSTICE, INC.
worked hard to create the necessary reform bills that will help you and your neighbors.
BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP!
Many of Florida 's owners are afraid that they can no longer afford their homes. Uncertainty about a person's home and finances can be devastating to an individual as well as to the community and state in which we all live.
Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc. was founded to unite Floridians in a quest to improve the daily lives of citizens. CCFJ, Inc. seeks to promote citizens' interests through Advocacy, Education and Legislative Reform.
Real fixes for Property Tax and Property Insurance need to be enacted to revive our "dead" economy. Admittedly, real fixes will require hard work!
For many homeowners and condo owners, serious association reform would immediately bring much-needed financial relief. We just can no longer afford the financial mismanagement, uncontrolled spending, and even clear embezzlement caused by vague statutes and a total lack of enforcement and lack of accountability of the people in charge.
With the help of many members and friends nationwide, we have created bills to be filed for the upcoming legislative session that will attempt to stop many of the problems we owners face daily in our communities! Drafting these bills is still a work in progress and input is appreciated!
It is estimated that more than two million families live in homeowners' associations regulated by Florida Statutes 720. The NUMBER ONE PRIORITY will be to provide support for all of these families. The AARP Bill of Homeowners' Rights shows clearly what is needed to protect the rights of homeowners: Easy enforcement of the rules, accountability of the people in charge, and easy access to information regarding these associations.
Here is the preliminary draft for a comprehensive bill that will fix the flaws of the current FS 720 by creating a regulatory agency and an ombudsman for homeowners -- all financed by the homeowners. How can anybody expect these associations to function properly when there are not even provisions to regulate board elections? Banana Republics hold fairer elections than Florida's homeowners' associations. That's why FS 720 needs a complete overhaul:
HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATION (FS 720)
Some additional provisions are still in the works!
Condo owners need better security against kickbacks and embezzlement. Creating term limits will stop certain board members from "dominating their kingdom" – and the ability to receive kickbacks and other sorts of disallowed enrichment. Term limits are one of the easiest solutions for a serious problem. The ability to hide financial records from the view of owners -- or insurance payments behind the excuse "Client/Attorney Privilege" -- is an invitation for financial shenanigans. This bill is important for the financial welfare of condo owners:
CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATIONS (FS 718)
Elderly condo owners who suffer from severe financial hardships need serious safeguards against liens, foreclosures and outrageous attorneys' fees. With our Florida real estate market nearly non-existent, condo associations should anyway think twice before throwing owners out of their homes for small amounts of unpaid dues. This bill proposal will stop liens and foreclosures for small amounts, but it will definitely not protect deadbeats:
CONDO (LIENS + FORECLOSURES FS 718.116)
Especially at times where the economy is weak, it is of utmost importance that prospective buyers in community development districts must be told what bills and costs will be coming their way after purchase. Sellers often try to hide all the costs of living in a CDD – often coupled with an HOA – and new owners face bills nobody told them about. Owners move in and then have to move out again, because the hidden costs kill their budgets. DISCLOSURE before sale is of utmost importance, especially since many of these potential buyers are from out-of-state and have no idea what a CDD really is. Don't forget, a CDD is a Florida invention to give developers big profits without risking their own money! In general, nothing wrong with that principle, but the facts must be disclosed and sellers that avoid disclosure must be punished in order to enforce mandatory disclosure. This bill will make sure that prospective buyers get the full picture. It is important for the financial planning of prospective homebuyers:
COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION DISTRICTS (FS 190)
Private property rights are at stake when associations are allowed to create retroactive rental restrictions. Especially during times of a depressed real estate market, for many owners renting units may be the only way to pay the bills and thereby avoid foreclosure. The ability to rent property should be a basic right for owners. The Florida legislature already recognized this right for condo owners. It's as well necessary to create the necessary protection for owners in co-operatives.
CO-OPERATIVES (FS 719)
One big problem in many associations is licensed Community Association Managers (CAMs) that behave in an unprofessional manner. Licensing is supposed to protect the public from unscrupulous and uneducated "professionals." Complaints from owners and boards pile up, but the laws regulating CAMs are unreasonably weak. Disciplining CAMs -- especially in very serious cases -- can take years. The biggest loophole is that management firms are not licensed and complaints against these firms go nowhere. Management firms -- often the biggest violators -- have to be accountable for their actions, inactions, negligence, culpability and bad advice. Violators have to be stopped – quickly and efficiently. This CAM Regulation bill will be the first important step in the right direction.
COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION MANAGERS
Pets – some love them; some hate them. Emotionally-charged battles are fought amongst neighbors, especially if regulations are changed in midstream. But the problem with pets can as well involve Fair Housing, and lawsuits can become very expensive – especially when punitive damages are added. Florida is a state with lots of elderly folks, retirees who were lured here under the pretense of carefree living. But in associations life is often the opposite of carefree! Experts have long acknowledged that pets are humans' best friends -- and especially folks with emotional problems can be helped with a companion pet! In order to avoid costly lawsuits and prevent neighbor turning against neighbor, it is essential to see laws created that will define right from wrong to stop these pet wars!
EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS
We all know that our economy is weak, our real estate "market" nearly non-existent. It will not get better in 2008, despite what many "experts" are trying to tell you. Florida 's citizens had been promised lower property taxes and lower property insurance premiums. The tiny savings we really saw were negligible. Admittedly, these are issues not easy to solve. The mistakes were made years ago – and don't blame the hurricanes. The writing was on the wall!
Owners living in associations are double-taxed, fleeced by incompetent board members and service providers or by scam artists -- all under the cover of "protecting property values," the biggest fairy tale of all. Owners need the protection of stronger laws that can be easily enforced. Homeowners, left to fight for themselves against bad odds, need a regulatory agency to turn to for help.
This is most likely one of the worst excuses used in the Florida statutes: "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." These associations are imposed upon us, with no protection against abuse! This must change to protect the financial welfare of homeowners who just can't afford to be used as cash cows any longer.
These proposed changes will not cost taxpayers a dime; no ballot proposal needed. No fight with big insurance companies is necessary.
All that's needed to achieve these goals is the goodwill of our legislators. Our elected officials have to stop listening to outright lies from special interests – the same lies they have been fed for many years. Many owners have problems dealing with their associations – more than anybody is ever willing to admit. Owner-friendly reform bills are desperately needed, especially with our economy in turmoil and many of our citizens facing financial emergencies. The numbers of foreclosures have increased rapidly – and the financial problems in our associations surely don't help. We see many families finding solutions with mortgage companies only to lose their home to foreclosure by associations for small amounts of unpaid dues, with huge attorney bills being the final nail in the coffin. When these bills are enacted, the benefits of these bills will save many owners more money than all the promised reductions in property tax and property insurance put together.
Reforms are not achieved by sitting on the couch, complaining about all the misery and watching soap operas. Apathy is what got us into this mess in the first place. Simply sending e-mails to certain legislators and many homeowners' activists will not create these changes. Active participation is needed to push for these necessary reforms. Your active participation is needed now!
Now start to help yourself by being part of the solution, not part of the problem!
Together we can achieve our goals.
The two largest United States consumer organizations -- AARP and LULAC -- have realized that serious changes are necessary to protect owners' rights. But it's our obligation to convince our local legislators that enacting these bills is a priority to protect the financial welfare of our families.