Crist praised for veto of flawed bill on homeowner associations

Jul 2, 2008

South Florida Sun-Sentinel–July 1, 2008


Gov. Charlie Crist’s veto of a bill to overhaul homeowner associations was hailed on Tuesday by those who wanted even greater accountability from boards.

"We’re happy because this opens the door for a good, solid homeowner association reform bill next year," said Jan Bergemann, president of the Deland-based Cyber Citizens for Justice, a volunteer organization that represents owners.

"He received so many e-mails from so many people from across the state that he had to," said state Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, leader of the condo and homeowner association reform movement in the Legislature.

Crist on May 1 signed into law a major condo reform measure, but complications in the homeowner association bill led to his veto on Monday. Unlike condo associations, homeowner associations aren’t regulated by the state and lack some of the protections that condo owners have. Roughly 1.4 million homeowners in Florida live in communities governed by homeowner associations.

The rejected measure (CS,HB 679) included provisions that would have let homeowner associations lien and foreclose on owners who don’t pay fines of more than $1,000; required new directors within 30 days of election to file statements that they have read the association’s rules or be disqualified from serving; allowed a majority of owners to terminate reserve accounts; and created 23 pages of contradictory requirements that owners and boards would have had to follow for resolving disputes before going to court.

However, Crist vetoed the bill for a seemingly innocuous provision: it would have exempted association-run swimming pools from state inspection and regulation.

"I cannot allow the families that use the approximately 7,300 public pools found at homeowners associations across the state to be endangered by water-related illness and other safety hazards due to this loss or decrease in state supervision," Crist wrote in his veto message.

Mike Leeds, a homeowner in the 415-unit Imagination Farms community in Davie, said regulation is needed.

"There are several areas where homeowners do need help," he said, including the way they are forced to pay increased maintenance to make up for those not paying because they abandon their houses or are foreclosed.

Bergemann, who had urged supporters of homeowner association reform to e-mail their opposition to Crist, said the bill was "designed for special interests and didn’t make sense."

Robaina said the veto will allow him the chance to develop a comprehensive reform bill for homeowner associations.

"It puts us in the position where we want to be; it gives us the opportunity to start from scratch on a HOA bill," he said.

He plans to spend the summer preparing a bill for next year’s legislative session and "the biggest thing I’ll be looking for is whether homeowners want regulation and if so, if they are willing to pay. That will be a key question, if people are willing to be regulated for a cost."

The fee likely would be similar to the $4-a-unit fee every condo association pays annually to the state for regulation.