Who shoulders the most responsibility to keep Florida's condominium and homeowners communities running properly, financially and socially? The board of directors? Owners? Lawmakers?
Actually, each of those entities owns an equal slice of the responsibility pie, and moreover, the power to make a difference. But they need to work more closely and congruously in order to help the state's shared communities weather these tough times, as associations continue to deal with revenue shortfalls caused by the foreclosure crisis and troubled economy..
That consensus about working together was crystalized in the comments I heard as moderator of last week's Sun Sentinel town hall meeting, "Florida Forward: What you need to know about condo and HOA laws." Nearly 100 people attended the free event hosted on May 23 at Nova Southeastern University's Huizenga Business School.
Angers flared. Accusations were tossed. Opinions flew.
"We have all the power, the board of directors do," said Stuart Fisher, president of Devon Condominium Association of Kings Point of Tamarac, about running everyday operations. "Not the laws. Not the lawyers. We do."
Fisher was a panelist at the event, along with Donna Berger, managing partner at Katzman Garfinkel & Berger, Gary Poliakoff, a founder of Becker & Poliakoff, Ken Lewis, a professor at NSU's Shepard Broad Law Center, and Tim O'Keefe, CEO of The Continental Group, a statewide property management company.
Some in the audience, which included other association board members, property managers and attorneys, nodded at Fisher's statement. Some shook their heads.
I agreed, to a point, knowing that Fisher is a big proponent of both following the law and of encouraging responsible owners to volunteer on boards. He used the word power, before he was cut-off by folks in the audience who wanted to share their own thoughts, but responsibility is just as important.
Speaking of lawmakers:
I asked how many people in the audience had contacted lawmakers to support or oppose a law or bill. I counted less than a dozen hands.
"The panel said that legislators listen to owners in community associations when they make their feelings known about new laws or changes to existing laws that would benefit them," said Mel Niser, a Broward County condo owner who attended the event. He emailed me after the event to say he has begun asking fellow board members to start thinking about new laws that could help associations.
That's what I am talking about. Board members, owners and lawmakers working together — more often.