A Busy Off Season in the Fair Housing World

 In the past few months, while many of the residents in our communities have escaped Florida's heat and humidity, our friends at the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development have been busy expanding the reach of Fair Housing protections.  

Here are a few of HUD's more notable recent actions on the Fair Housing front:

  • In April, HUD's Office of General Counsel published "guidance" making it more difficult for housing providers to justify denying a prospective owner or renter on the basis of that applicant's criminal record.
  • On September 14, HUD issued its final rule on "Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment"--apparently creating new liabilities for a housing provider in certain situations for allowing a "hostile environment" to exist in the community to the detriment of a person who falls within one of the Fair Housing Act's "protected classifications".
  • Just a few days after that final rule was issued, HUD apparently issued yet another decree--this time providing that persons who speak no or limited English are entitled to Fair Housing Act protections.

In other words, the rules of the Fair Housing game have changed over the summer.   We're digesting HUD's activities and plan on focusing our next community association seminars on the challenges of keeping ROC's compliant with Fair Housing laws.  In the meantime, board members and managers in resident owned communities would be well advised to consult with their legal counsel about any Fair Housing questions they may have.

 

 

Time for Board Certification!

 ROC board members can meet their board certification requirement by attending the 6th Annual Community Association Festival at the Venice Community Center on February 17, 2016.   Registration with a free continental breakfast starts at 8:30 a.m.  There will be several informative and entertaining speakers featured from 9 a.m. until 11:45 a.m.  We'll break for a free barbecue lunch at 11:45 and then separate after lunch (and prize drawings) into three groups for specific board certification training that will start at 1:30 p.m..  I'll be doing the training for board members of cooperative associations and two other community association attorneys will be training board members of condominium associations and mandatory homeowners associations.  

The entire event is free and even if you don't need to meet the certification requirement, the opportunities to learn from our speakers--including one of analysts with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes--and network with ROC members from the area should not be missed.  Who knows, you may even win one of the door prizes!

Here's the link to register for the event.  Seating is limited and RSVP's are thus needed by no later than February 12.

I hope to see you in your "Mardi Gras" attire at the Venice Community Center on February 17!

Welcome to a Busy 2016!

 ROC board members and managers have several opportunities to network and learn over the next few weeks:

  • I'll be speaking to our friends at EPROC (East Pasco Resident Owned Communities) at their monthly meeting at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, January 8 at the Emerald Pointe community in Zephyrhills.  
  • On Monday, January 11, I'll be presenting one of our community association seminars with another member of our firm,  Jonathan Whitney.  We'll be starting at 1:30 at Imperial Bonita Estates in Bonita Springs.   We'll be discussing recent changes to the laws affecting resident owned communities and the procedures involved in collecting unpaid maintenance fees.   
  • I'll be covering the same topics at another community association seminar at  Sunset Shores  in Frostproof on Wednesday, January 17, beginning at 10:00 a.m.  

Our community association seminars usually last 2 hours or so and include time for attendees to ask us general questions about other issues affecting ROCs.   There's no charge to attend these seminars, refreshments are served and you'll have a chance to meet and mingle with friends and neighbors from other communities.

If you are interested in attending either of these two community association seminars and have not already made your reservation, please RSVP to either Karen Midlam (kmidlam@lutzbobo.com) or Kathy Sawdo (ksawdo@lutzbobo.com) or call either of them at 941-951-1800.

We'll be participating in two separate certification courses for board members in resident owned cooperatives in February and I'll post more about those two events in the near future.

Until then, I hope 2016 brings us all health, happiness, and no hurricanes!

All Eyes on Erika

 Most Floridians know that our real "hurricane season" begins around the time that thoughts turn to football and our students returning to school.   This year is no different as we have been following the progress of Tropical Storm Erika.

Earlier today, Florida's governor declared a state of emergency.  While the path and intensity of Erika remains very uncertain, this is a very good opportunity for a few reminders:

  • Florida statutes grant certain emergency powers to the board of directors of condominium, cooperative, and mandatory homeowners associations in response to damage caused by an event for which a state of emergency is declared.  Managers and board members should review both the appropriate statute and the association's governing documents for guidance in the event that any emergency actions need to be taken.
  • Residents with pets should have already determined what shelters in their area will accept pets as many shelters will not do so.
  • Finally, as I have written before, if and when a mandatory evacuation order is entered for your locale, residents and their guests should leave the community.   Unless the community's clubhouse is a certified hurricane shelter, no one should be using the clubhouse to "ride out" the storm.

The National Hurricane Center is currently posting full updates on Erika every six hours and interim updates approximately three hours after a full update.  If and when Erika approaches Florida's coastline, these updates will probably occur more frequently.

Now is the time to make preparations and to be alert and aware.   Stay safe!

4th Annual CA Festival This Month in Venice

There's a great opportunity for managers and board members of resident owned communities scheduled for Wednesday, April 16, at the Venice Community Center.   It's the 4th Annual Community Association Festival, complete with free breakfast and lunch, prizes, food, steel drums, lots of Hawaiian shirts (wear one if you're attending) and informative and interesting presentations from experts on topics like banking, insurance, plumbing problems, and engineering issues.

We'll also be breaking into three separate groups (one each for board members and managers in condominiums, cooperatives, and deeded subdivisions) for legal updates specifically geared for each group.  I'm pleased to once again be presenting the legal update for the cooperative association board members and managers.

Again, this is a free event.   Registration starts at 8:30, the presentations will run until 12:30 or so, and a free barbecue lunch will follow. 

If you want to attend, all you need to do is email Deanna Mixon at DeannaM@SPTPlumbing.com.

Free food, prizes, steel drums, and information:  sounds like a great way to spend the first part of the day!

If you are a newly elected or appointed board member in a cooperative and are looking to fulfill the educational requirement for board certification (or if you just want to become better informed about the laws governing cooperative associations) , I'll be presenting my Cooperative Board Member Certification course on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, at Molokai, which is at 1 Hawaiian Way in Leesburg. Registration starts at 9:15 a.m. and the course begins at 10 a.m. and should conclude by no later than 1 p.m.  Please rsvp by email to Frank@mid-fl-roc.com if you wish to attend.

I hope to see many of you later this month at Molokai or at the Venice Community Center!

CA Day, Community Matters, and Board Training

I'm posting a link for tomorrow's Community Association Day scheduled at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.   CA Day is always a very well attended event with tremendous opportunities for ROC Board Members to learn, network, and have fun.   Admission is free but if you have a chance to rsvp for the event please do so.   We anticipate a record-breaking turnout this year.

I'll also be taping this Saturday's edition of  "Community Matters" at CA Day after participating in the attorneys' panel discussion and look forward to a very busy morning tomorrow.

My first three certification training presentations for board members in cooperative associations have been completed and I am very pleased with the attendance and the questions and comments I've received.   I have co-op board member certification training courses scheduled for March 26 at Imperial Bonita Estates in Bonita Springs and April 8 at Molokai in Leesburg.

I hope to see many of our ROC friends at CA Day tomorrow, later this month at Imperial Bonita Estates, or in April at Molokai.

Enjoy this first day of Spring!

One More Date for Co-op Board Member Training

Our first certification training course for board members of resident owned cooperative associations was a great success with over 80 attendees earlier this week at Westwinds Village in Bradenton.  Thanks to everyone that attended and to Westwinds for its great hospitality.

We've added one more date to those we've already scheduled:

  • Wednesday, March 26th at Imperial Bonita Estates in Bonita Springs.   We'll start at 10 a.m. and should end by no later than 1:00 p.m.   There's no charge and light refreshments will be served.

Please keep in mind that my board certification course has only been approved for board members in cooperative associations but all board members and candidates board positions are invited to attend.

Please email Karen Midlam (kmidlam@lutzbobo.com) or Kathy Sawdo (ksawdo@lutzbobo.com) to rsvp for this or any of the other training courses I am offering during the next few months.

All of my blog readers will find this week's episode of "Community Matters" very interesting and entertaining.  My guest will be a wildlife trapper and we'll be spending the hour talking about feral cats, hogs, coyotes, bears, bobcats, and other uninvited visitors to our resident owned communities.  "Community Matters" can be heard Saturday morning at 11 on WSRQ Radio (1220 AM and 106.9 FM in Sarasota and Manatee Counties) or online at sarasotatalkradio.com.  You can also listen to our podcasts that are usually posted on the Monday after the show.

Have a great weekend and hope you enjoy the weather!

Time for Co-op Board Member Training!!

Welcome to the new world of training for board members in our resident-owned cooperatives!

Annual meeting season has begun and new board members are being elected.  As you know, Florida Statutes now require that newly elected or appointed board members either certify in writing to the co-op’s secretary that the new board member has read the association’s bylaws, articles of incorporation,  proprietary lease, and current written policies, that the board member will work to uphold those documents to the best of his or her ability, and that the board member will faithfully discharge his or her fiduciary responsibility to the association’s members---or, instead of providing that written certification, a newly elected or appointed board member can submit a certificate of having satisfactorily completed a seminar approved by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) for training co-op board members.  This must be done within 1 year before or 90 days after the new board member’s election or appointment. 

I’m pleased and excited to announce that my course materials were approved by the DBPR late last year and I’ve scheduled my three hour program for 4 separate locations in the next few months:

  •  Wednesday, February 12, starting at 9:30 a.m. at Westwinds Village in Bradenton
  •  Wednesday, February 19, starting at 9:30 a.m. at Country Club Estates in Venice
  •  Tuesday, March 18, starting at 10 a.m. at Hammock Estates in Sebring
  •  Tuesday, April 8, starting at 10 a.m. at Molokai in Leesburg

My program is specifically designed for board members in co-ops and is NOT approved for certification of board members in condominium associations or homeowners associations governed by Chapter 720 of the Florida Statutes.

There is no admission charge and light refreshments will be served.   All co-op board members, whether or not newly elected or appointed, are encouraged to attend.  Even if those board members don’t need to be “certified,” I’m sure they’ll find the three hours worthwhile.  The price is right and everyone will have an opportunity to meet fellow board members from neighboring communities.

We do need to have a good idea of the number of current or new board members (or candidates for the board if your elections have not yet occurred) in order to make sure our host communities have enough refreshments and seating, so please RSVP to Karen Midlam (kmidlam@lutzbobo.com() or Kathy Sawdo (ksawdo@lutzbobo.com) at your earliest convenience.

Depending on the needs of our friends in Lee, Collier, and Pasco Counties, we’ll schedule either a board training program or one of our regular community association “roundtables” in those areas in the very near future.

I look forward to seeing many of you at one of these board training sessions in the next few months and I hope all of you are enjoying a very happy and healthy beginning to 2014.

 

A Follow Up on HOA Registration

In the week or so since my last entry, I've been contacted by managers and board members from several resident owned cooperatives who have received notices about the new recent requirement for mandatory homeowners associations to register with the State. 

I want to clarify that condominium associations formed under Florida Statute Chapter 718 and cooperative associations formed under Florida Statute Chapter 719 do not have to worry about this new requirement as these associations have already registered with Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The new registration requirements apply to mandatory homeowners associations governed by Chapter 720 of the Florida Statutes --not condominiums or cooperatives.

I'd suggest that a manager or board member of any condominium or cooperative association that receives one of these notices contact his or her attorney and provide that attorney with a copy of that notice.   Other than the DBPR's press release, which was included in my last entry, I don't know of any other official notice that would be sent by the State and I'm concerned that one or more enterprising services may be offering to "help" an unsuspecting community register (for a fee, or course) even if the community is not required to do so.

Several of the resident owned cooperative associations we work with have the phrase "homeowners association" in their corporate name.  Those associations are nonetheless still cooperatives governed under Chapter 719 regardless of the fact that their unit owners refer to themselves as members of a "homeowners association". 

When it comes to some cooperatives (as well as some condominiums and non-mandatory homeowners associations), a rose by any other name may still be a rose.

Again, if you have any questions about whether these new registration requirements apply to your association, please contact your association's attorney.

 

Website for HOA Registration Announced

I was just forwarded a press release from Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation announcing the creation of its website for mandatory homeowners' associations to register online.

As my blog readers may recall, Florida's legislature recently passed a law that for the first time requires all mandatory homeowners' associations (governed under Chapter 720 of the Florida Statutes) to provide certain information to the State.  Community Association Managers should remember that it appears from this legislation that any CAM that manages an HOA is responsible for filing this information.

The content of this press release follows:

To: Members of the media

Date: September 27, 2013

From: DBPR Communications Office, 850.922.8981

 

Registration website for HOA and Community Association Managers live

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) today launched the website where homeowners associations (HOA) and Community Association Managers (CAM) are now required to register. The website was created as part of recently passed state legislation (Chapter 720, FS), which requires community association managers, community association management firms or HOAs, in the absence of a CAM, to report information about the associations before the deadline of November 22, 2013.

 

“We’ve worked really hard to create a website that collects all of the data required by law to track the number of homeowners associations in the state,” said Secretary Ken Lawson. “It’s important that associations become aware of the new reporting requirement and meet the deadline.”

 

During the 2013 Legislative Session, HB 7119 made several changes to HOA governance, including the requirement for HOA associations to register with DBPR. Additionally, the legislation provided DBPR with authority to take administrative action against a community association manager’s license for violations of state laws relating to condominiums, cooperatives and homeowners’ associations that are committed during the course of performing contractual community management services.

 

Associations may now register with the Department at www.myfloridalicense.com/hoa. If individuals have any questions throughout the one-time registration process, they may contact the Department at 800.226.9101.

 

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s mission is to license efficiently and regulate fairly. The Department licenses and regulates more than one million businesses and professionals ranging from hotels and restaurants, real estate agents and certified public accountants to veterinarians, contractors and cosmetologists. For more information, please visit www.MyFloridaLicense.com.

We'll next have to wait and see exactly what type of curriculum the DBPR's developed to meet the new laws requiring newly appointed board members in cooperatives and mandatory HOA's to meet the educational or certification requirements previously only applicable to board members in condominium associations.   That's an entry for another day.

 

Furry Companions and Service Animals next on "Community Matters"

You'll want to catch our next installment of "Community Matters" as Kevin Wells and I will be discussing therapy and companion pets and service animals with the manager of a large resident owned community in Sarasota County and a representative from Southeastern Guide Dogs.

"Community Matters" airs on WSRQ (1220 AM and 106.9 FM) on Saturday mornings from 11 to noon and online at www.sarasotatalkradio.com.   Podcasts of each of our shows are made available on Mondays after the show airs at the WSRQ site--just click on my photo and you'll be able to listen to those podcasts.

If you have any questions about this topic or suggestions for future shows, please feel free to post a comment to my blog or email me at sgordon@lutzbobo.com.

I hope you enjoy this Saturday's installment of "Community Matters".

Co-op Board Members Now Subject to Certification Requirements

On Friday, June 14, Florida's Governor signed into law several bills affecting community associations, including House Bill 73.

One of the important provisions of House Bill 73 amends the statutes governing cooperative associations in Florida by requiring board members in co-ops to meet the same certification requirements as condominium association board members.

Florida Statute Section 719.106 will now require a newly elected or appointed board member in a cooperative association to do one of the following within 90 days of that election or appointment:

  1. Certify in writing to the association's secretary that the board member has read the association's bylaws, articles of incorporation, proprietary lease (or occupancy agreement), and current written policies, and that the board member will work to uphold such documents and policies to the best of his or her ability, and that he or she will faithfully discharge his or her fiduciary responsibility to the association's members
  2. Submit a certificate that the board member has--within one year before or 90 days after his or her election or appointment--satisfactorily completed the educational curriculum administered by an educational provider as approved by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of Condominiums,Timeshares, and Mobile Homes under the requirements established in Florida's statutes governing condominium associations

This educational certificate is valid and does not have to be resubmitted as long as the board member serves on the board without interruption.

The association's secretary is required to retain both of the written certifications described above as part of the association's official records for 5 years after a director's election or the duration of the director's uninterrupted tenure, whichever is longer.

The educational curriculum requires that at least four of these topics be covered in sufficient detail:

  • Budgets and reserves
  • Elections
  • Financial Reporting
  • Cooperative Operations
  • Records maintenance, including unit owner access to records
  • Dispute resolution
  • Bids and contracts

The effective date of HB 73 is July 1, 2013.  I've been working on an outline of curriculum (those of you that attended FLAROC's Board Training event in Punta Gorda in March had a preview of that outline) and hope to provide it to the DBPR for approval--and for use in our resident owned community seminars--within the next week.

I'll keep you posted on this and other important impacts of HB 73 in future blog entries.

Update on the 2013 Florida Legislative Session on "Community Matters"

As many followers of this blog may already know, House Bill 87 was signed by Florida's Governor last Friday.  This bill provides community associations with some hope that the foreclosure process--which seems to take an eternity before it concludes--will be expedited and that an association can have a meaningful voice in the foreclosure action. 

I discussed House Bill 87 and several other bills affecting resident owned communities last weekend with lobbyist Travis Moore on our inaugural hour of  "Community Matters," which airs every Saturday from 11 a.m. until noon on Sarasota TalkRadio, WSRQ--1220 AM and 106.9 FM.

In addition to providing our listeners with an explanation of House Bill 87 and its effect on the foreclosure process, Travis summarized a number of other provisions, including the following:

  • Changes to the fees to be paid by communities to the State of Florida for submerged land leases
  • A requirement that mandatory homeowners associations be registered with the State
  • Updates to statutes governing a unit or parcel owner's right to copy the association's "official records" which will expressly allow for such copying to occur by use of an iPad, tablet,  iPhone or similar device.
  • Provisions clarifying what information about a unit owner or parcel owner an association can safely include in its membership directory
  • Amendments to the statutes governing cooperative associations that will provide those associations with the same protections in regards to personnel matters and personnel records as found in the statutes governing condominium and mandatory homeowners associations
  • An additional amendment to Chapter 719 of the Florida Statutes requiring newly elected or appointed board members of cooperative associations to meet the same certification or education standards as board members in condominium associations

If you'd like to hear last Saturday's show--here's the link to the podcasts for "Community Matters": sarasotatalkradio.com/community-matters/  .  Just click on "read more" and you'll find the podcast.

We'll be discussing hurricane preparedness for the next two weeks. I hope you'll listen live or to our podcasts and I'll look forward to your questions and your suggestions for future topics for "Community Matters".

"Community Matters" Debuts This Saturday

I'm pleased to let my blog readers know that I'll be one of the hosts of "Community Matters," a radio show that will focus on issues and topics affecting resident owned communities.

The show will be airing on WSRQ, Sarasota's "TalkRadio," each Saturday morning from 11:00 to noon, at 1220 on the AM dial and 106.9 on the FM dial. 

Podcasts will also be available at www.sarasotatalkradio.com.

The first installment of "Community Matters" airs this Saturday, June 8th.  I'll be speaking with Travis Moore, of Moore Relations, Inc. 

Mr, Moore is a lobbyist who has spent many years representing the interests of residents of community associations in Florida and we'll be discussing several very important bills passed during the 2013 legislative session, including revisions to the laws affecting foreclosures, copying and producing association records, and membership directories as well as a new law concerning the registration of mandatory homeowners' associations with the State.

I hope you'll take the opportunity to listen to the show live or by podcast and will look forward to your questions and suggestions for future installments of "Community Matters."

Alert: Small Business Scam Targets ROCs

I just finished speaking with the manager of one of the resident owned communities in our area.

An email was received at the community's email address, allegedly from the Federal Trade Commission.  The subject of the email was "NOTIFICATION OF CONSUMER COMPLAINT" and the email contained a very official looking document advising that a customer had complained "about your business and believes you have contravened the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA)".

The document further stated that "Federal Trade Commission has initiated a formal investigation into this complaint" and asked the association to "consider the details of the enclosed letter"--which conveniently did not accompany the email.   Instead, the document advised the association that the letter (which contained the complaint) could be downloaded from a website listed in the document.

The document advised the association that it was "welcome to contact us regarding this matter" using a form that could be downloaded from another website address.

The document closed with the address of the FTC and its website and warned the association that "the FTC is required to post information about businesses who fail to respond to consumer complaints".

Our firm's technology professional quickly determined that the email was yet another scam and located this link that describes the scam in detail.  

You'll note that the Federal Trade Commission advises the recipients of this scam that they should not click on the links to the websites listed  in the email.

Managers and board members of resident owned communities should always be alert for these scams and use common sense--after all, it's doubtful that, even in this day and age, any agency of the federal government would choose email to notify a business of a consumer complaint.

Our best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday weekend.

Two Exciting Educational Opportunities in March

We're now into the busiest part of the "season" for resident owned communities and I wanted to alert all of our blog readers living in west central and southwest Florida that two great events are scheduled for later this month:

  • FLAROC has asked me to participate in a Board Training Session for directors in resident owned manufactured housing cooperatives Thursday, March 21, at River Forest Village in Punta Gorda. Check-in starts at 8:30, the training will run until noon, and we'll conclude with a question and answer session.  There will be light refreshments provided and there is no charge for this program.   While Florida Statutes still do not require directors in cooperative associations to attend board training, I'd certainly recommend that present or prospective board members take advantage of this free event.  Please contact Mary Danitz from Florida Shores Bank at mdanitz@floridashoresbank.com to rsvp as reservations are required.  Light refreshments will be provided and seating is limited.
  • The very next morning, Friday, March 22, you'll be able to find me and several other representatives of our firm at the Manatee Convention Center in Palmetto.   We'll have a booth at the CA Day Trade Show & Educational Expo sponsored by the West Florida Chapter of the Community Associations Institute.  I'll be part of the "ask the lawyers" panel and will spend the rest of the day greeting ROC members that visit our booth.  This annual event is always fun and educational for everyone.

I hope to see you at River Forest Village on March 21 or the Manatee Convention Center on March 22!

February's ROC Seminar and the Community Association Festival

The first month of 2013 has been very busy and February promises more of the same:

As mentioned in one of my recent blog entries, we'll be presenting a seminar for board members of community associations on Friday morning, February 8th at Oakwood Manor in Sarasota.  If you're interested in attending and haven't already reserved your seat, please contact either Karen Midlam at kmidlam@lutzbobo.com or Kathy Sawdo at ksawdo@lutzbobo.com.

If you are a director or manager of a resident owned community in west central or southwest Florida, you will not want to miss the the 3rd Annual Community Association Festival.  This year's event is scheduled for Wednesday, February 20th, at the Venice Community Center.     Registration starts at 8:30 in the morning, with the presentations to begin at 9 a.m.   Continental Breakfast and a great barbecue lunch will be provided free of charge before the program ends at 1:30 p.m.  Everyone is encouraged to wear "wacky tacky" Hawaiian attire.  You'll have the opportunity to learn about insurance issues, get the perspective from the lender's side of the table, gain some insight about reserve studies, and spend some time with an attorney who will focus on topics that affect the particular type of community in which you reside, whether that's a condominium, cooperative, or subdivision. 

Again, there's no admission fee for this fun and informative event--and it's a great opportunity for managers and board members to network with their peers from neighboring communities.

If you're interested in attending the Festival, please call 941-809-2031 or email deanna@sleuthpt.com to register.

On a more sobering note, I've been following the stories about the residents of Paradise Park, a manufactured housing community in New Jersey that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.   Let's keep the displaced residents of Paradise Park and all of the others affected by that storm in our thoughts as we thank our lucky stars for escaping the 2012 hurricane system with little or no damage.

I hope to see you in February!

A Busy Beginning to 2013

The last few weeks of 2012 were extremely busy and the beginning of 2013 promises more of the same.

Here is a list of the speaking engagements and seminars that we've scheduled for the next few weeks:

  • I'll be speaking at the monthly meeting of EPROC this Friday morning, January 11 at Emerald Pointe in Zephyrhills.  That meeting starts at 9 a.m.
  • On Monday morning, January 21, we'll be presenting one of our resident owned community seminars at Old Bridge Village in North Fort Myers for board members and managers of associations in Lee, Collier, and Charlotte Counties.
  • We'll be offering the same seminar for board members and managers of associations in the Sarasota County area at Oakwood Manor on Friday, February 8.

Our ROC seminars start at 10 a.m. and end between noon and 12:30.  There's no charge for the refreshments, information, and the opportunity to meet board members from other communities in your "neck of the woods."   Included in our seminar topics is a presentation called "What I learned in 2012" that promises to be both educational and very entertaining.  Of course, we'll save time for our traditional "open forum" to discuss topics of immediate concern to the seminar attendees.   Please contact Karen Midlam at kmidlam@lutzbobo.com or Kathy Sawdo at ksawdo@lutzbobo.com to rsvp for the January 21 or February 8 seminars.

In my next entry, I'll be posting information about a "must attend" event scheduled for February 20 at the Venice Community Center.

I hope your New Year is off to a great start!

 

 

ROCs and the Effective Dates of Bylaw Amendments

Here's yet another example of how the statutes governing condominium associations differ from those governing cooperative associations:

The members of a community association have just approved an amendment to the association's bylaws.  Exactly when does the amendment to the bylaws become effective?

Florida Statute Section 718.112(1)(b) provides that no amendment to the bylaws of a condominium association is valid unless properly recorded in the public records of the county where the declaration of condominium is recorded.  

No similar provision exists in Chapter 719 of the Florida Statutes, which governs cooperative associations.  Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation correctly notes that the question of when an amendment to the bylaws of a cooperative association becomes effective is not addressed in Chapter 719.

However, F.S. Section 719.106(1)(h) requires that the bylaws of a cooperative association provide for the method for amendment "consistent with the provisions" of Chapter 719 and if the bylaws do not provide a method for amendment, this section contains the "default" method to be used.

Most of the bylaws of cooperative associations that I've either prepared or reviewed do provide for a method of amendment and also provide for an effective date, which is quite often the date that a copy of the amendment and a properly signed certificate which confirms that the bylaw amendment was adopted by the members at a membership meeting is recorded in the public records of the county where the community is located.   This process is consistent with Chapter 719 and gives both unit owners and title examiners certainty as to the effective date of the bylaw amendment.

Thanks to the members of Mid-Florida ROC for their questions, comments and hospitality during my presentation at their meeting earlier this week at Country Club Manor in Eustis.

Our next community association seminar is scheduled for Tuesday morning, December 5, at Paradise Bay Estates in Bradenton.  If your community is located in the area and you'd like to attend, please send an email to kmidlam@lutzbobo.com or ksawdo@lutzbobo.com.    As always, there's no charge for the event and you''ll have the chance to network and have some refreshments. 

I'll be posting the dates and locations of other upcoming seminars and presentations in my next blog entry.

I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving and look forward to seeing you soon!

All Eyes on Isaac!

As all Floridians know, our hurricane season doesn't really get under way until August and we're currently watching a very large system--Tropical Storm Isaac--slowly develop.  

At this point, it's anyone's guess whether and to what extent our communities will be impacted by this system.

ROC managers (and board members that remain in Florida during the "off season") should be familiar with the drill but nonetheless, here are a few reminders:

  • Pay attention to broadcast media and in particular the updates issued by the National Hurricane Center.   During these situations, rumors run rampant--particularly on the internet--but the NHC's website is an invaluable asset when the tropics begin to churn.
  • As I have preached in past years, unless the clubhouse in your community is a Red Cross certified shelter, your residents should not be congregating in that clubhouse when threatened by a hurricane.  Do not allow your residents to use the clubhouse to as a shelter or have a "hurricane party" when tropical systems threaten.
  • A mandatory evacuation order means just that--and if you are in a community in which a mandatory evacuation order has been issued, your refusal to evacuate is a violation of Florida law.   Residents that choose to remain in their communities after being ordered to evacuate do so at their own peril--and they should realize that if they require assistance during or after the storm, emergency personnel may not be able to assist them.
  •  Now is the time for residents with pets to locate "pet friendly" shelters.  Don't wait until the evacuation order is issued.
  • Make sure that any item on your property that could become a "missile" during a storm is brought inside.
  • Please let a relative or friend know where you are "riding out the storm" and let that friend or relative know how to contact the authorities if he or she is unable to locate you once the storm passes.
  • Be extremely careful when returning to your home after the storm.  Many injuries and deaths occur as a result of post-storm accidents.

One of the recent issues of the Florida Community Association Journal has some very good articles on preparing for and dealing with hurricanes and you can find other useful information at a number of other sites, such as the one for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Hopefully, Isaac will be more "bark" than "bite" and the rest of our hurricane season will be safe and uneventful.   Better to be prepared for the storm that doesn't come our way than to be unprepared for the one that does!

Educational Opportunities for ROC Managers and Board Members in July

I was just asked to speak on Reasonable Accommodations Under the Fair Housing Act at two Community Association Workshops scheduled for this month in Southwest Florida.

Both events are free to all community association managers and board members and CAMs can receive CEU credits for both my presentation and other presentations.

The first workshop will be held on the morning of July 12 at the DiamondHead Beach Resort & Spa, which is located at 2000 Estero Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach.  Check-in is at 7:30, followed by breakfast at 8, and two CEU sessions beginning at 8:30.  In addition to my presentation,  Rose Bechard-Butman and Wendy Shaw from Allstate Resource Management will be speaking about Stormwater Systems--a timely topic given our recent experience with Debby.

The second workshop is set for July 17 on Marco Island at the Marco Presbyterian Church, located at 875 West Elkam Circle.   Check-in begins at 11:30, followed by lunch catered by Mango's Dockside Bistro at noon.  The CEU sessions will start at 12:30.   Florida Shores Bank will be instructing CAMs and board members on how associations can be financially prepared for hurricanes (again, always an important topic in Florida).   I'll speak on Fair Housing and one more CEU session may be added to this workshop. I'll let you know if and when that occurs.

If you live in or near Lee or Collier Counties, and you're a manager of board member in a resident owned community, I hope you'll take the opportunity to join us at one of these workshops. 

Please RSVP by contacting Mary Danitz at Florida Shores Bank by emailing her at mdanitz@FloridaShoresBank.com or calling her at (239) 265-9053.  Seating is limited so don't delay!

Have a safe and happy July 4th!

2012 is the International Year of Cooperatives!

I've returned from a few days in Washington, DC at the American Bar Association's 21st Annual Conference on Affordable Housing and Community Development Law.

The theme of the conference was "Making the Case for Affordable Housing and Community Development".  I attended a panel discussion on current Fair Housing Issues and a session on "hot topics" from the view of HUD representatives as well as an extremely informative discussion about the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

I was privileged to hear remarks from HUD's General Counsel and found a presentation on Ethics in Affordable Housing Transactions thought provoking and illustrative of the challenges facing attorneys involved in the sale, purchase, and development of housing communities.

The continuing need for affordable housing in our country was highlighted by a discussion with two members of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Housing Commission.

While much of the conference focused on government assisted multifamily housing, a number of panels and presentations dealt with other topics.  I was invited to serve on a panel discussing cooperatives as a tool for housing and social enterprise.  My fellow panelists included the Interim President and CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association and a representative from the Rural Development Program of United States Department of Agriculture.

Among the many things I learned from my participation in this panel:

  • All of us deal with cooperatives on a daily basis.  Many businesses (and many, if not all credit unions) are cooperatives.
  • There are many states that have no statutes or laws governing resident owned housing cooperatives.
  • Finally, 2012 is the International Year of Cooperatives!  Who knew?

Our resident owned manufactured housing cooperatives have a reason to celebrate in 2012!

 

 

 

ADA Pool Accessibility FAQs and An ABA Forum

Carol Grondzik,one of my colleagues in our firm's Tallahassee office, just forwarded a link that answers many frequently asked questions about the pool accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.   As I mentioned in one of my earlier blog entries this year, those requirements were set to go into effect in March but have been delayed until at least May 21.  I hope the followers of my blog find this link helpful and informative.  As always, I suggest that ROC managers and board members obtain professional guidance in determining whether their community's facilities must comply with any of these accessibility requirements and if so what type of equipment will satisfy the ADA standards.

I'm very excited to be spending a few days later this month in Washington, DC at the American Bar Association's Forum on Affordable Housing and Community Development Law.  I've been invited to be one of the panelists speaking about Cooperatives as a Tool for Housing and Social Enterprise.  I'll also have the opportunity to attend workshops and seminars on Fair Housing and other issues affecting resident owned communities.  The Forum is being held from May 23 through May 25 and I'm sure I'll be posting entries on this event on my return.

 

 

 

 

Beware of the "Property Deed Solicitation Letter"

The number of schemes out there that seek to part us from our hard earned money continues to amaze me. 

Last month, the Manatee County Clerk's Office issued a warning about a "Property Deed Solicitation Letter".   Some homeowners in Manatee County, including the Clerk of Court himself, received letters from companies offering to sell them a certified copy of their deed for prices ranging from $50 to $100 per deed.  Apparently, these letters periodically appear in that county and are often concentrated in a specific zip code or neighborhood with neighbors often receiving these letters at the same time.

As Manatee County's Clerk stated in his news release, any home owner's deed is a public record and is permanently maintained in the clerk's office of the county where that home or unit is located.   You do not have to pay a fee to a private company for a copy.  

In Manatee County, any homeowner or unit owner can view and print--at no charge--a non-certified copy of the deed or assignment or memorandum of proprietary lease from the Manatee County website.   Many other, if not most counties, in Florida, offer the same service.   Residents in counties where this service is not provided merely need to make a trip to their County Clerk's office a pay a few dollars to obtain a copy of their deed, assignment, or memorandum.

It's very rare that a homeowner or unit owner will need either a regular or certified copy of a deed or other document showing ownership of a home or unit--and the cost of obtaining either type of copy should not exceed more than $5 dollars per page.

In the words of Manatee's Clerk of Courts: "While there does not appear to be anything illegal about this offering, it is a totally unnecessary expense for a homeowner to incur."

Thanks to the Manatee County Clerk's Office for its warning and to one of our legal assistants, Karen Midlam, for bringing the news release to my attention.

And if any of my  readers receive any of these types of letters, please let me know and I'll spread the word on this blog.

 

Great Educational Opportunity for Southwest Florida ROCs on March 27

I want to remind all of my blog readers that the PM-EXPO Trade Show is scheduled for Tuesday, March 27, at the Charlotte County Convention Center. 

This will be a day packed with fun and information with presentations on a number of very interesting topics. 

Here's the link to the home page for the Trade Show:  www.pm-expo.com/sw-florida/

Admission at the Trade Show is free and so are the presentations, including my presentation that afternoon on dealing with Reasonable Accommodation Requests under the Fair Housing Act.

I hope to see many of our friends from the Southwest Florida at the Trade Show this Tuesday!

Indianwood Golf & Country Club Joins the ROC Family

On February 28 of this year, residents of Indianwood Golf & Country Club purchased their community, with the assistance of Marty Pozgay's Florida Community Services Group.

Indianwood is a 596 space manufactured housing community located in Indiantown, which is located in Martin County, west of Stuart and southeast of Okeechobee.  All but 10 of the spaces are currently occupied, and there is an 18 hole par 70 golf course with a pro shop and restaurant.

The resident-owned cooperative association, Indianwood Co-op, Inc., was the purchaser of the community and the sales price was $30,000,000.   Financing was provided by Bank of America.

The President of Indianwood Co-op, Inc. is Karlee Shostrom and she and all of the new owners of Indianwood Golf & Country Club are to be congratulated on this exciting accomplishment.

We're very pleased to welcome Indianwood to the ROC family and look forward to hearing more about the newest resident owned community in Florida!

I hope to see some of my blog followers at the Manatee Convention Center in Palmetto on March 8 for the always educational and fun Community Association Day and on March 27 at the Charlotte Harbor Conference Center for the Community Association Trade Show planned by PM-EXPO.   I'll be part of a panel of community association attorneys for CA Day and will be speaking about Reasonable Accommodations and the Fair Housing Act at the Charlotte County event.

 

 

 

Join us at our next ROC seminars

We're only two weeks into 2012 and I've already had the opportunity to make a presentation on conducting elections in community associations for managers and board members on behalf of our local chapter of the Community Associations Institute and speak about the"55 and over" exemption and other Fair Housing issues at this month's meeting of EPROC at the Colony Hills community in Zephyrhills.   EPROC has grown tremendously in the two short years since its formation and this is in large part due to the efforts of Rebecca Gaddis, who recently accepted a new position with the San Antonio Citizens Federal Credit Union.   Since that's San Antonio, Florida (not Texas), and she'll be based out of Zephyrhills, EPROC will continue to benefit from Rebecca's involvement.  It was very encouraging to see so many communities represented at EPROC's January meeting and I'll look forward to returning to their April meeting to moderate a discussion on the various types of community management.

I'm pleased to announce the dates of our next set of seminars for managers and board members in resident owned communities:

  • Tuesday, January 31 at Village on the Greens in Bradenton (formerly known as El Rancho Village--we had a great time at their very well attended "name change" celebration on January 5th!)
  • Friday, February 3 at Camp Florida Resort in Lake Placid
  • Wednesday, February 8 at Bonita Beach Trailer Park in Bonita Springs
  • Thursday, February 16, at Sandalwood Park in Venice

We'll be covering a number of topics at these seminars, including the following:

  • What every board member and manager should know about buying, selling, and transferring homes in resident owned communities
  • Florida-friendly landscaping
  • Updating the "55 and over" survey in ROCs

As always, we'll discuss any proposed legislation affecting resident owned communities and leave some time for questions and suggested topics for future seminars.

All of these seminars start at 10 a.m. but many attendees arrive a bit early to enjoy the refreshments and meet and greet attendees from other communities.  We'll aim for ending these seminars between noon and 12:30

Please call Karen Midlam or Kathy Sawdo at our office (941-951-1800) or email them at kmidlam@lutzbobo.com or ksawdo@lutzbobo.com to let us know which of these seminars you'll be attending, the number of members from your community that will be attending, and whether you'll need directions to the host community.

There's no charge to attend and enjoy some refreshments and the company of other ROC board members--and pick up some useful information!

I hope to see you at one of these seminars.

 

 

 

Continue Reading...

Upcoming Educational Opportunities for ROCs

We've got a very busy five or six weeks ahead of us with several chances for managers and board members in resident owned communities to hear from us:

  • I'll be speaking about fines and suspending privileges as well as pet issues at the Mid-Florida ROC meeting at the Molokai community in Leesburg on Tuesday morning, November 29th.

Bill Korp and I will be making presentations on elections, budgets, and a number of other topics at our upcoming ROC "roundtables":

Our "roundtables" begin at 10 A.M. and end between noon and 12:30.  These events are great for board members that want to learn and also network with residents from other communities.  Refreshments are served and there's no charge.   If you're interested in attending and haven't already rsvp'd, please email either Kathy Sawdo (ksawdo@lutzbobo.com) or Karen Midlam (kmidlam@lutzbobo.com).  Just let either of them know which one of these "roundtables" you'll be attending, how many will be attending from your community, and whether you'll need directions to the host community.

I'll also be speaking at Tamiami Village in North Fort Myers on the morning of December 21 for the monthly meeting of SWFROC and will be presenting a seminar on the procedures and requirements for the election of directors in ROCs after the January 4 breakfast meeting of the West Florida chapter of the Community Associations Institute.

I hope to see you at one or more of these events.

Have a happy and relaxing Thanksgiving surrounded by friends and family.   Go Gators and Go Blue!

 

Cooperative Associations, Fines, and Suspension of Use Rights

The very successful and well attended 2nd Annual Dowd, Whitaker & Associates Community  Festival was held in Venice earlier this week.   I was pleased to be one of the presenters at the Festival and had the opportunity to speak to an impressive number of members and managers of resident owned cooperatives throughout southwest Florida.

I covered a number of topics during my presentation but the one that generated the most discussion involved Florida Statute Section 719.303 and in particular the provisions relating to fines and suspension of  use rights for failure to comply with the cooperative documents or the association's reasonable rules.

Here are a few important pieces of information from that presentation:

1.   The authorization to assess fines or suspend use rights or voting rights does not need to be included in the community's governing documents.

2.   Fines cannot exceed $100 per violation or $1000 total but a fine may be assessed on the basis of each day of a continuing violation.

3.   Fines may not become a lien on a unit under this statute.

4.   Fines may not be assessed and use rights may not be suspended unless the unit owner (or, if applicable, the unit's licensee or invitee) is provided with reasonable notice and the opportunity for a hearing before a committee of other unit owners.   If the committee does not agree with the fine or suspension, the fine or suspension can not be imposed.   I do not see any provision in the statute that prevents board members from serving on this committee.

5.     Even if the association's bylaws specifically permit closed committee meetings pursuant to Florida Statute Section 719.106(1)(c), I'd suggest that the safer course of action may be to keep these hearings open to the general members--since the statute clearly provides that the committee's decision not to impose a fine or suspension prevents the board and the association from imposing the fine or suspension, I'm concerned that this committee may be held to "take final action on behalf of the board" and thus not be allowed to hold its hearings behind closed doors.  

The association can also suspend voting and use rights where a member is more than 90 days delinquent in paying any monetary obligation owed to the association.   There's no need for a hearing in these situations and I'll go into further detail in my next blog entry.

 

 

 

 

A Few Presentations on the Horizon

We'll be presenting the last series of this season's ROC seminars during the end of March and the month of April. 

Our first two have been scheduled and here are the dates and locations:

  • Wednesday, March 30th at Piney Point in Ellenton
  • Friday, April 1st at Lake Bonnet Village in Avon Park

These events will start at 10 a.m. and we usually end around noon.  Two of the topics we'll be covering are "Top Ten Reasons to Update Your Community's Governing Documents" and "Reasonable Accommodations Under the Fair Housing Act".

We'll also provide you with legislative updates (which should be very interesting!) and leave time for our customary "open forum".

As always, attendance is free, as are the refreshments and you'll enjoy meeting and greeting fellow ROC residents.   Please rsvp by emailing Karen Midlam at kmidlam@lutzbobo.com, Kathy Sawdo at ksawdo@lutzbobo.com or me at sgordon@lutzbobo.com.

I'll also be speaking at the Mid-Florida ROC meeting on the morning of April 19th at Country Club Manor in Eustis.  I've had the pleasure of speaking at the most recent meetings of both the ROC Forum (last week at Four Seasons in Largo) and SWFROC (earlier this week at Carriage Village in North Ft. Myers) and also spoke about Advance Care Directives last week at Golf Lakes in Bradenton.  Thanks to all of those communities for their hospitality!

We're finalizing the dates and locations for seminars in Sarasota County and Lee and Collier Counties and I'll post them on the blog next week.

 

A Busy ROC Seminar Schedule for January

I know everyone is busy preparing for the holidays but I wanted to post our January seminar schedule:

All of these seminars will start at 10 a.m. and will end between noon and 12:30 p.m

We'll be discussing requirements and procedures for properly and efficiently conducting meetings, issues involving swimming pools, and any proposed legislation making its way to Tallahassee for the 2011 lawmaking session that may impact resident owned communities in our state.

We'll conclude with our traditional "open forum" for questions and suggestions for future seminar topics.

As always, admission is free, refreshments will be served, and you'll have a great opportunity to mix and mingle with members of other ROCs in your area.

Please email Karen Midlam (kmidlam@lutzbobo.com), Kathy Sawdo (ksawdo@lutzbobo.com) or me (sgordon@lutzbobo.com) if you'd like to attend one of these events.  Just let us know which seminar and the number of residents from your community that will be attending.

I'll also be speaking at the Mid-Florida ROC meeting at Hawthorne  in Leesburg on the morning of Tuesday, January 25.

Our best wishes to you and yours for a very happy and healthy holiday season.   We're looking forward to seeing you in January!

Another Seminar Date and Another ROC Group

We've set the date and location of the seminar for the board members and managers of resident owned communities in the Lee, Collier, and Charlotte county area:

This event will start at 10 a.m. and end around noon.  Just like the other seminars posted in my last blog entry, admission is free and so are the refreshments and opportunities to mix and mingle with fellow ROC members.  

We'll be covering several very interesting topics at our December seminars:

  • Updates on dealing with pet and caregiver requests under the Fair Housing and Americans With Disabilities Acts
  • Privacy issues facing managers and board members in resident owned communities
  • Recent legislative changes to Florida's statutes governing ROCs
  • As always, attendees will have time for questions and comments.

Please send an email to Karen Midlam (kmidlam@lutzbobo.com), Kathy Sawdo (ksawdo@lutzbobo.com) or to me (sgordon@lutzbobo.com) if you'd like to attend any of our December seminars.   Let us know which event you'll be attending, the number of attendees from your community, and whether you'll need directions to the seminar.

We hope to see you in December at one of these seminars.

There's a ROC group that 's been formed in East Pasco County (EPROC) and I wanted to post the dates of their upcoming meetings:

  • November 19th
  • December 10th
  • January 14th
  • February 11th
  • March 11th
  • April 8th

If you're a member of a resident-owned community in that area and want more information, please send me an email and I'll point you in the right direction.  The EPROC meetings begin at 9 a.m. and the November meeting is at Betmar Acres.

EPROC is off to a great start and I look forward to speaking at that November 19th meeting.

December ROC seminar schedule and other important dates

We've scheduled three of the four seminars we'll be presenting in December for managers and board members in resident-owned communities. 

Here are the dates and locations:

I'll be posting the location of the seminar for our Lee and Collier communities and a brief description of the topics we'll be covering within the next few days.

These events will start at 10 a.m. and run until about noon.    Admission is free and so are the refreshments.  Our seminars are a great opportunity  to meet and discuss common issues with members of other ROCs in the area.

If you'd like to attend, please email me at sgordon@lutzbobo.com, Karen Midlam at kmidlam@lutzbobo.com, or Kathy Sawdo at ksawdo@lutzbobo.com.   Let us know which event you'll be attending, the number of members of your ROC that will be attending with you, and whether you need directions to the host community. 

We'll look forward to seeing you in December!

The Florida Resident Owned Communities website has a very helpful calendar that lists the upcoming meetings of the ROC groups serving Lake, Sumter and Orange Counties (Mid-Florida ROC), Southwest Florida (SWFROC), and Pinellas County (ROC Forum).   I hope you'll find that calendar useful and will bookmark it for future reference.

Enjoy this great weather and we'll see you next month!

DBPR seminars next week in Clearwater and Sarasota

I just wanted to post a quick link to the DBPR's website with the times and locations of the DBPR seminars in Sarasota on the evening of October 18 and in Clearwater on the evening of October 19.

You'll note that the seminar in Sarasota can be accessed online.

Also, don't forget the Community Association Festival in Venice on the mornings of October 19 and October 20.

We'll be posting the dates, times and locations of our first set of this season's ROC seminars within the next two weeks.

Enjoy this great weather--looks like autumn has arrived in Florida!

Welcome Country Lakes to the ROC Family!

It's always a pleasure to welcome a new member into the family of resident owned communities.

On September 15, the resident purchase and conversion of the communities of Country Lakes I and II in Manatee County was completed. 

The proud owner of this 471 site community is Country Lakes Co-op, Inc.  Kudos to the residents that participated in the purchase effort and especially to Marty Pozgay and his Florida Community Services Group for helping the residents realize their dreams of ownership.

The HOA officers received the 45 day notice from the owner of Country Lakes I and II on June 28, 2010.  At that time, about seventy per cent of the homeowners had left those communities for their summer residences and Marty and the remaining thirty per cent were faced with the daunting task of raising six million dollars for an earnest money deposit (to be applied to the total purchase price of 32.2 million dollars) in a very short period of time.  

The blanket loan was provided byBank of America and individual share loans were provided by Patriot Bank andWhitney Bank.

Congratulations to the residents at Country Lakes and to everyone that helped Country Lake Co-op, Inc. become the newest ROC in Florida!

Those of you in the Sarasota, Manatee, and De Soto County area, please don't forget to rsyp for the upcoming Dowd Whittaker Community Association Festival on either October 19 or October 20.   John Dowd promises a morning of education and fun for all and I'll be one of the speakers--plus you'll get to see me in one of my flashiest Hawaiian shirts.

See you there!

Foreclosures, Flags and a Free Seminar

I just read two articles in the New York Times that I wanted to bring to the attention of the followers of my blog.

  • It's no surprise to anyone that Florida has been one of the states most heavily impacted by the foreclosure crisis.  The number of foreclosures continues to grow daily and our court system is struggling to find an answer to the increasing backlog of cases.   Gretchen Morgenson's and Geraldine Fabrikant's piece in the Business Day section of the September 4, 2010 of the Times is entitled "Florida's High-Speed Answer to a Foreclosure Mess" and paints a very distressing picture of the challenges we face in finding solutions to the problems created by the onslaught of foreclosure actions.   I think you'll find this a very eye-opening read.
  • There's a battle being fought in a resident-owned community in Arizona over a flag that a homeowner (a former board member!!) is flying on his roof.  It's a yellow 'Don't Tread on Me" banner that (coincidentally?) has been adopted by the current "Tea Party" movement.    Marc Lacey's piece appears in the August 30, 2010 edition of the Times and is entitled "Homeowner's Fight Involves Flag Tied to Tea Party".   I recommend this piece for all members of ROCs who might otherwise think that these disputes occur only in our fair state.

I'll be speaking at the First Annual Dowd, Whittaker & Associates Community Associates Community Association Festival at the Venice Community Center.   All Board members and managers of ROCs are invited to attend from 9 a.m. to noon on either October 19th or October 20th.   The event is free to all and there will be prizes, food, drinks and music.   The suggested attire is "your tackiest Hawaiian shirt."    You'll find the link to register for the event right here:  http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e30dxr1rce2238b3&llr=vdb8x9dab

I hope everyone had a safe and restful Labor Day weekend and that the rest of the hurricane season remains quiet in our neck of the woods.   I'll look forward to seeing many of you (in your most colorful Aloha shirts) at Venice Community Center on either October 19 or October 20!

Summer Reading for ROCs

While we're waiting for the next tropical system to form in the Atlantic (and as all Floridians know, hurricane season is just getting started), I thought I'd suggest a few articles for your reading pleasure:

  • In today's Sarasota Herald Tribune, a very interesting story on how several law firms in the state that have been characterized as "foreclosure mills" have drawn the attention of Florida's current attorney general.
  • An article from several weeks ago in the Herald Tribune about the attempts of owners of boats anchored in Sarasota Bay to create a "homeowners association".
  • very interesting column by Tom Lyons in the Herald Tribune about some real problems created by the revisions to the Florida Statutes that allow community associations to collect rent directly from a person renting a home or unit from an association member that is delinquent in his or her assessments, dues, and/or maintenance fees.  Mr. Lyons followed this column with an equally thought provoking entry in his blog--and the questions raised in both the column and the blog remain for the most part unanswered.

Finally, the August 2010 issue of the Florida Community Association Journal focuses on budgeting and financial issues and provides a wealth of helpful material for ROC managers and board members.  The articles may not be posted online yet but they are all well worth reading.

We'll be scheduling our first set of seminars for resident-owned communities for the 2010-2011 season in the next few weeks and will post that information on the blog.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your summer reading assignments!

March and April ROC seminars are now scheduled

The last of our second series of seminars for the season is set for February 24th at Caribbean Isles in Apollo Beach.  We'll be starting our last set of presentations less than two weeks from now.

Here are the dates and locations of these upcoming seminars:

  • Wednesday, March 3, at Japanese Gardens in Venice
  • Tuesday, March 9, at Harbor Oaks in Fruitland Park in Lake County
  • Tuesday, March 23, at Golf Lakes in Bradenton
  • Thursday, April 1, at Enchanting Shores in Naples 

We'll be covering a number of very interesting topics, including a mini-orientation for ROC board members and a discussion of financial opportunities for ROCs in this challenging economy.  Current cases and pending legislation will be covered, including any additional information we've gathered on House Bill 419 and companion Senate Bill 864  that appear to be on the agenda of Florida's legislature during its upcoming session.  As always, we'll try to provide ample time for a general "question and answer" session.   The seminars will be begin at 10 a.m. and we should be finished by 12:30 pm at the latest.

Refreshments will be served, and there's no charge to attend.  If members of your community would like to attend any of these seminars, please rsvp by emailing either Kathy Sawdo at ksawdo@lutzbobo.com or Karen Midlam at kmidlam@lutzbobo.com.  Just let them know which seminar you'd like to attend, the name of your community and the number of residents from your community that will be attending, and whether you'll need directions to the host community.   We like to give each of our host communities a "head count" of attendees a few days prior to the seminar that community is hosting so, if at all possible, please rsvp at least a few days before the event you're planning to attend.

We hope to see you at one of these events.

 

ROCs and Civil Rights

I just returned from a brief trip to Memphis, Tennessee and visited the National Civil Rights Museum, which is located at the site of the murder of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The museum has incorporated much of the Lorraine Hotel (including the room in which Dr. King stayed and the balcony outside that room where he was killed) as well as the apartment across the street from the hotel where James Earl Ray aimed and fired from a bathroom window and took Dr. King's life.   I recall the exact moment when I learned of Dr. King's death and to be able to view the site of his assassination in an "up close and personal" manner was an extremely powerful experience for me.   I highly recommend a visit to the museum if you are in the Memphis area and suggest that you view the short movie at the museum called "The Witness" before beginning to tour the exhibits.

As I made my way through the museum, I was reminded that many of the freedoms we take for granted today are the result of great sacrifices and courageous efforts by Americans of all colors and beliefs.   I couldn't help but marvel that less than fifty years ago, Dr. King was gunned down simply because many of his fellow countrymen could not accept the fact that all Americans were entitled to certain basic rights.   The fact that many of the injustices that Dr. King sought to overcome have been remedied speaks volumes to his legacy and to the laws that our federal and local legislators have enacted during the past five decades.

My visit to the museum reminded me about the direct connection between the Civil Rights laws and the Fair Housing and Disability laws that often create divisive problems for board members and other residents in the communities we work with.   Those Fair Housing and Disability laws built upon the earlier Civil Rights laws and extend rights of equality to which all Americans are entitled.  The underlying philosophy of all of these laws is simply that no American should be deprived of certain opportunities, whether in employment, or voting, or obtaining housing, simply because of his or her color or religion or disability.   Unless our legislators carve out an exception (such as the Housing for Older Persons Act), it's that underlying philosophy that should guide ROC board members.

Some forty-two years after Dr. King's death, it's an important lesson for all of us to remember.

Thanks to our friends at Francis I in Sebring for hosting last week's well-attended seminar.  We'll be at Windward Isles in Sarasota and Marco Shores in Naples this week and at Caribbean Isles in Apollo Beach during the last week in February.  If you'd like to attend one of these free seminars and haven't yet rsvp'd, please contact either Karen Midlam at kmidlam@lutzbobo.com or Kathy Sawdo at ksawdo@lutzbobo.com.  I hope to see you at one of these events.

 

February ROC Seminars Are Now Scheduled

The dates and locations for the resident-owned community seminars we'll be conducting in February are now set.   We'll discuss helpful hints for conducting annual membership meetings and other unit owner meetings and will also provide some insights into the importance of screening potential owners, occupants, and guests in your communities.   We'll also leave time for our traditional "open forum" to answer general questions from the attendees.

Our first series of ROC seminars for this season were very well attended with lots of participation from our attendees.   We expect an even greater turnout for these upcoming events.   As always, there's no charge to attend and the refreshments are also provided free of charge.  The dates and locations of our February presentations are:

  • Monday, February 1 at Francis I Mobile Estates in Sebring
  • Wednesday, February 10 at Windward Isle in Sarasota
  • Thursday, February 11at Marco Shores in Naples
  • Wednesday, February 24 at Caribbean Isles in Apollo Beach

All of these seminars will be held in the clubhouses of our host communities and will start at 10 a.m.   We expect to wrap up the seminars by 12:30 p.m. at the latest.

Please call my assistants, Karen Midlam or Kathy Sawdo at 941-951-1800 or email them at kmidlam@lutzbobo.com or ksawdo@lutzbobo.com if you are interested in attending and provide them with the following information:

  • The event your community wishes to attend
  • The number of attendees from your community
  • Whether you will need directions to the seminar

Our seminars are always a great opportunity to network with residents at other resident owned communities.   We hope to see you at one of these events.

 

 

Several Recent Articles of Interest to ROC members

Last Sunday's edition of the Sarasota Herald Tribune featured two separate front page articles that highlight the decisions that helped lead us into our current economic mess and threaten to keep our economy from recovering in the near future.

  • The first article focuses on a condominium project in Charlotte that finds most of its units "occupied" by "phantom purchasers" from Brazil who have not paid their maintenance fees and have left the few purchasers that actually live in the development facing substantial monthly expenses for the upkeep of the common areas.  While this is a lengthy report, I highly recommend it to members of resident owned communities.
  • The other article detailed the failure and refusal of many of our major financial institutions to make loans to small businesses and homeowners in spite of the clear message sent to these institutions by our President and Congress.   In its own way, this article is as depressing and maddening as the first.

I'd also like to recommend L. Jon Wertheim's story in the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated.  It's entitled "The Games of Their Lives" and it describes the efforts of two athletes to fulfill a final dream--to compete in the Beijing Paralympics.   This bittersweet but uplifting depiction of the triumph of the human spirit and the tremendous support given to these two champions (in many cases, by total strangers) gave me a very helpful dose of perspective during this time of the year.

As many of you know, we've just completed our first set of seminars for the 2009-2010 season.   Thanks to the over 200 residents from almost 55 different communities throughout the state for attending and to our hosts at Molokai in Leesburg, Old Bridge Village in N. Fort Myers, Sandalwood Park in Venice, and Westwinds Village in Bradenton for their great hospitality.   We'll be posting the dates and locations for our next set of seminars within the next few weeks.   We hope to see you at one of those events!

 

Another sign of the economic times

Given my most recent entry about the difficult decisions that ROC boards are facing due to the struggling state of our economy, I hope you'll find this article about the Red Hat Society that I read in  today's Sarasota Herald-Tribune interesting.   It seems all of my visits to the communities we represent coincide with some Red Hat Society event and I have a feeling that many readers of my blog may already know about the debate over whether dues should be charged to every "Red Hatter".  

ROC Seminars Are Scheduled for November and December

Our first set of ROC seminars for the 2009-2010 "season" have been scheduled.   We'll discuss how the new "Red Flag" identity protection rules will affect resident owned communities, cover election procedures and the differences between ballots and proxies, provide some updates on developments in the Fair Housing area and recent court cases and highlight proposed legislation that may impact community associations.   In addition to that rather full agenda, as always, we'll devote some time to an "open forum" for questions from our attendees. 

The seminars are scheduled as follows:

  • Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at the Molokai community in Leesburg.
  • Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at Sandalwood Park in Venice.
  • Thursday, December 3, 2009 at Old Bridge Village in North Fort Myers.
  • Thursday, December 10, 2009 at Westwinds Village in Bradenton.

The seminars start at 10 a.m. and end at 12:30 p.m. and all of the seminars will be held in the clubhouse at each of these communities.  We plan on covering the same topics at each of these locations so you can choose the date and location that's most convenient.

While the seminars are free of charge to all attendees, because we do serve refreshments and want to make sure that there is enough seating and space for everyone,  please notify us in advance if you wish to attend.   Also, please note that the seminar at Molokai is being held in conjunction with the monthly meeting of the Mid-Florida ROC group and if your community is located in or near Lake or Sumter County and is not yet a member of that group, please let us know when you make your reservation and we'll provide you with the contact information for one of the Mid-Florida ROC officers.

If you are interested in attending one of these seminars and your community hasn't already reserved seats, please email either Karen Midlam (kmidlam@lutzbobo.com) or Kathy Sawdo (ksawdo@lutzbobo.com).  They'll be able to provide you with directions and answer any other questions you might have.

We're looking forward to seeing you at one of these seminars and if you have any topics you'd like to have us discuss at future seminars, please email me at sgordon@lutzbobo.com.

Reports from the FMHA Convention and the Institute on Condominium and Cluster Developments

I'm writing this entry from Ft. Lauderdale, where I am attending the Institute on Condominium and Cluster Developments presented by the University of Miami School of Law.   This two day seminar has provided me with a wealth of material for future entries to this blog and has allowed me to spend some time learning and meeting with many of my fellow community association attorneys throughout Florida.   A colleague from our Tallahassee office, Karl Scheuerman, spoke at one of yesterday's sessions on the many issues facing "subsequent developers" of condominiums and other community developments.  Hopefully, these are issues that your community or association will never have to face.  

Karl and I attended the dinner meeting of the Florida Bar's Condominium and Planned Development Committee (which is part of the Bar's Real Property Probate and Trust Law Section) that was held at the end of yesterday's presentations.    Again, this event gave me the opportunity to discuss with a number of my colleagues problems facing ROCs and potential solutions to those problems.

As my blog followers know, I also attended the convention of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association at the Saddlebrook Resort north of Tampa earlier this month.   This annual event gives the members of our firm that work with the owners of manufactured housing communities the opportunity to network with those owners and many of the companies that provide important services to those communities.    A number of my colleagues from our firm, including Allen Bobo, Jody Gabel, Richard Lee, David Eastman, Karl Scheuerman, Carol Grondzik and I made presentations to convention attendees on a variety of topics, including:

  • Evictions
  • Fair Housing Issues
  • Dealing with Abandoned Mobile Homes
  • How to amend rental prospectuses

It was clear from our experiences at the FMHA convention that the current state of our economy has created an environment that is extremely challenging for community owners, whether they be private investors or ROCs. 

The FMHA is well aware of the importance of resident owned manufactured housing communities in Florida and will be making a concerted effort to encourage these communities to join FMHA and to participate in its activities.  I've always felt that the FMHA and the community associations that own and operate manufactured housing communities have many common interests and will be posting details on the FMHA's increased efforts to bring more ROCs into its organization in the future.

 I'll be posting the dates, locations, and topics of our upcoming November and December seminars next week.

 

 

 

Updates on Educational Opportunities for ROCs

Several weeks ago I mentioned the educational opportunities offered at the upcoming annual convention of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association at the Saddlebrook Resort just north of Tampa on October 7 and 8.  

I received a memo earlier this week from the FMHA about a "Round Table Discussion" that will be held at the convention at approximately 3:15 p.m. on October 8.   This discussion is entitled "What Works to Fill Homesite Vacancies?" and will cover a variety of methods and ideas that can be used to help communities find prospective residents.

Given today's economic climate, this is a very timely and important subject for ROC managers and board members.   Please note that this "Round Table Discussion" is open to all FMHA members and if you have questions and want to attend the convention please contact the FMHA at info@fmha.org.

Speaking of "Roundtables," I am in the process of  scheduling our first set of seminars for the "season" to be held in November and December.    We try to have several "roundtable" seminars each year in communities that are located in the geographical areas that we serve and if your community would be interested in hosting one of these events, please contact me.  

As always, we welcome your input in helping us plan the topics for these educational seminars--so if you have any subjects, questions, or issues that you'd like us to cover, please let me know. 

I'll post the dates, times, and locations of our November and December seminars in the near future.

A Great Educational Opportunity for Manufactured Housing ROCs

The Florida Manufactured Housing Association's annual convention is scheduled for October 7th and 8th at the Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel, Florida, which is just north of Tampa.

Our firm sponsors the welcome reception on the evening of October 7th. This reception is a great way to network with managers and board members from other resident owned manufactured housing ROCs as well as investor owned communities.

The schedule of events for October 8th promises a full day of information that should be very useful to every manufactured housing community.   Topics that will be covered include evictions, Fair Housing,  how to comply with the provisions of Florida's landlord-tenant laws for manufactured housing communities, and how to deal with vacant homes.  An "Ask the Lawyers" session is also scheduled and I know from experience that the attendees always find this session entertainng and well worthwhile.

The FMHA wants ROCs to take advantage of this great educational opportunity and I've offered to help spread the word about this exciting event.   You'll find the links to the information about the annual convention at the FMHA's website.  

I hope you'll consider attending the convention and look forward to seeing you there.

More websites for ROCs

I've found a few more websites that ROCs, especially resident owned mobile home and RV communities, might want to visit.

  • A county by county directory of Florida ROC websites can be found at Michael Freeman's website.  Please take a look at his site and if your community's website is not on the list, email him with your ROC's website address.
  • About 50 ROCs in the Pinellas County area have established a "ROC forum" and their website describes the forum and lists member communities.  This website also has  contact email addresses for some of the other regional ROC groups in Florida.   Some of those groups, such as Mid-Florida ROC (in the Lake and Sumter County area) and LEEROC (which has expanded from Lee County into other counties in Southwest Florida and has been renamed SWFLROC), are very active and you might want to contact one of those groups if your ROC is located in or near an area served by one of these groups.  

I'll continue to post websites that may be of interest to ROCs and if you have any sites that might fall into this category, please send them to me.