How Florida Condo Associations Wielded Political Power…

NBC NEWS
By Jon Schuppe
Aug 12, 2021

Soon after Jason Pizzo was elected to Florida’s state Senate in 2018, he began working on a bill that reflected one of his top priorities: stiffening penalties for secrecy, fraud and kickbacks on condominium boards.

The legislation, he said, was a response to constituents’ complaints about shady financial dealings that led to condo residents getting blindsided by costly renovation projects.

Pizzo, a Democrat who represents a corner of coastal Miami-Dade County packed with condos, introduced his bill over the objections of lobbyists who represented condo associations and the lawyers, property managers and other professionals who worked for them. They pressed him in private meetings, according to two lobbyists and Pizzo, and objected to his bill at public hearings, arguing that the proposal would make it too difficult and expensive for condo associations to operate. He won a couple of committee votes, but his bill went no further.

Three years later, he is still trying to get his proposal passed.

Fending off new penalties

In April 2019, a lobbyist stood before the Florida Senate’s Committee on Innovation, Industry and Technology and urged lawmakers not to approve a proposal to make it easier to file criminal charges against condo board members who accept kickbacks or subvert residents’ requests for financial records.

The lobbyist was Mark Anderson, representing the Chief Executive Officers of Management Companies, a trade organization for property managers that has been paid more than $500,000 to influence lawmakers over the past decade, according to public records.

He told the committee that the new penalties could be “weaponized” against board members and property managers by residents who want a seat on the board. He said the bill would lead to higher attorney fees and make it hard for associations to attract people to join boards because potential volunteers would fear being punished for inadvertent mistakes.

He added that associations were already trying to comply with new regulations imposed in the wake of a 2016 investigation of South Florida condos by a Miami-Dade County grand jury, which found regulators failed to protect condo residents from fraud, secrecy and conflicts of interest by boards and management companies. The new regulations, passed in 2017 following initial objections from condo lawyers, required boards to make it easier to access financial records and imposed criminal penalties for condo board election fraud, theft and self-dealing.

“We need to take a breath,” Anderson told the committee.

He was among a group of condo industry lobbyists trying to head off this first attempt by Pizzo, recently elected to the state Senate, to impose new regulations, which would toughen the penalties in the 2017 law and expand them to other kinds of misconduct. Pizzo had told the lobbyists about his plans months earlier, when he was still running for office.

View the original article at NBC News

Winners and losers emerging from the 2021 Legislative Session

FLORIDA POLITICS
By Peter Schorsch
May 3, 2021

Mark Anderson — Normally, lobbyists don’t get singled out in Winners & Losers. Before you write us to ask why so-and-so didn’t get a nod, ask yourself this: Did they go “Full Anderson?” And by that, we mean did they perfectly time millisecond of public testimony to advocate for a client during budget talks? That kind of move takes guts. And it produces results. The solo lobbyist snagged $13 million in client appropriations, helped long-sought legislation modernizing HOA rules, and regulating home-based businesses. Quite the Session.

View the full article at Florida Politics

Bill updating homeowner association rules clears House

FLORIDA POLITICS
By Kelly Hayes
April 27, 2021

The legislation provides solutions for future health crises.

A bill that revises state regulations and governance rules for homeowner and community associations cleared the House in a unanimous vote Tuesday.

The House heard the Senate version of the legislation (SB 630), filed by Sen. Dennis Baxley, which also passed the Senate unanimously. The bill, presented by House sponsor Rep. Jason Shoaf, seeks to address statewide standards around community associations.  

In a sign of the times, the legislation updates the emergency powers of community association boards during a state health emergency. Specifically, the bill allows board members to attend meetings remotely and implement emergency plans.

The legislation also seeks to improve transparency among associations by allowing them to post documents not only to their websites but also on mobile apps. Similar to other public meetings, the bill mandates timely notices be posted for all community association member meetings, not just the annual one. 

Voting records would also be added to the list of official documents that must be maintained by the association. Associations would also be required to provide a due date for homeowners to pay fines. 

The legislation may also reduce costs for Florida homeowners by allowing associations to better recoup actual costs related to background checks in connection with sale, lease or mortgage of a unit, preventing those costs from being passed onto current unit owners.

The bill was praised by the Chief Executive Officers of Management Companies (CEOMC), which represents more than 18,000 licensed, professional community association managers who manage more than 14,000 community associations.

“We are very thankful to Reps. Jason Shoaf and Anthony Rodriguez and their Senate counterparts, Sens. Dennis Baxley and Travis Hutson, for successfully carrying this important bill across the finish line today,” CEOMC executive director and lobbyist Mark Anderson said in a statement. “Once signed by Governor (RonDeSantis, this critical and time-sensitive legislation will ensure Florida’s community associations are pandemic-safe, more transparent, streamlined, modern and affordable.”

View the original article at Florida Politics