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Florida legislature considering new laws adversely affecting HOAs

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The lawmakers in Tallahassee, in their infinite wisdom, sometimes decide that they know better than the average resident of the many neighborhoods represented by a homeowners association throughout the state. Sometimes, however, the population of the state of Florida can make a difference by contacting their representatives, the governor, and other members of state government and convince them that they may not have all the right answers.

This year, Senator Alan Hays has filed Senate Bill 1348 which finally would allow the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to assist H.O.A.s in resolving serious issues that arise in our communities. Under the propsed bill, the plan is to reduce the fees paid by condominium owners to the DBPR from $4.00 to $2.00 per year and to have HOA owners only pay $2.00 per year as well.

Last year, The Florida Legislature required all HOAs in the state to register, in order to learn just how many owners live in these types of communities. To date, it is now estimated that over 2.5 million of Floridians live in HOAs, yet none of them receive the consumer protection that condominium owners receive. Under current law, if you have a problem in your HOA community, there is nobody to turn to for help, except perhaps a lawyer. Condo owners can pick up the phone and get help from the DBPR or simply file a written complaint.

Despite Senator Hays stepping up to the plate and filing this badly needed bill, despite the fact that The Florida Legislature mandated HOAs to register with the state and despite the fact that the state knows that over two and a half million of you live in HOAs, Governor Rick Scott and Speaker Will Weatherford are blocking a House companion bill from being filed and heard in the House. If you want this bill to be enacted, please send e-mails and/or make telephone calls to the speaker and governor. The governor can be reached at (850) 488-7146, and the speaker can be found at (850) 717-5038.

Of course, the lawmakers aren't the only ones who sometimes attempt a power grab against HOAs and their residents. Recently, the Florida Bar has fought hard to have many of the routine activities currently performed by Licensed Community Association Managers and Board Members classified as the "unlicensed practice of law" (UPL).

If these lawyers prevail in their efforts, it would create a monopoly for these services as only attorneys would be allowed to complete these tasks. Anyone else performing these tasks would be guilty of a third degree felony. This would effectively eliminate the ability for Boards to determine who should provide these routine administrative services and thereby increase the costs for homeowners by millions of dollars.

With the encouragement and support of many Florida community association Board Members and homeowners throughout Florida, the Florida Legislature filed four (4) bills to correct this situation. These are House Bills 7037 and 7039 and Senate Bills 1466 and 1496.

These bills must pass through a number of committees in the House and Senate before they can be brought to a final vote. The Bar and lawyers opposing this legislation have 28 professional lobbyists to oppose these bills. Therefore, it is important that community association Board Members and homeowners express their support for these bills to the Legislators who serve on these committees. If homeowners do not speak up it is very possible that the Bar will prevail in their efforts to derail this legislation despite the wide support it has attracted. In a recent hearing on the subject, Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, who is herself an attorney, asked the Bar's spokesperson: "Why is this something that the Bar, which most of us pay our dues to and allegedly represent us, why are they taking time and spending money to deal with this issue? There is no question in my mind that this rule, if that's what we are calling it, that the Bar is trying to get passed is going to significantly increase costs to homeowners in our state at a time when they cannot afford it."

"I feel like it is the fox guarding the hen house," Young said. "I feel like it is lawyers trying to drum up business. Why do I need a lawyer to tell me what a quorum is? Why do I need to hire a lawyer to fill out a form? This is just silly and it is embarrassing, and I would ask the Bar to please focus on things that matter and stop trying to drum up business at the cost to our homeowners."

Below is a sample email for each bill and a list of those legislators in the Florida House and Senate who will be hearing these bills in the coming days. Please feel free to add your own comments or message. You are also welcome to call their offices using the phone numbers provided.

Click on the link below and send the e-mail.

Sample Email - House Bill 7039

Sample Email - House Bill 7037

Sample Email- Senate Bill 1496

Sample Email- Senate Bill 1466

Be sure to subscribe to this column, and stay abreast of issues involving you, the homeowners of Palm Beach County, and join in on the discussion on twitter. If you've had any issues with your HOA that you'd like me to try and delve into, and possibly write about later, please let me know. While you’re at it, please read my articles about local getaways, motorsports, elections, and restaurants.

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