House Member Emily Slosberg recently co-sponsored House Bill 123 called the “Stand Up for Seniors Act ” which only applies to 55 and over condominium and homeowners’ associations. The bill brings the current “bullying” issues that school children deal with it into your 55 and over condominiums and HOAs.
The bill defines “Bullying” as intimidation or harassment that causes a reasonable person to fear for his or her physical safety or property and may consist of physical actions including gestures.
It then defines “Cyberbullying” as bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication.
It defines “Harassment” as any racist, threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, use of data or computer software, or written, verbal, or physical conduct that has the effect of substantially interfering with or disrupting a member’s opportunities, peaceful enjoyment of his or her home or the association common areas, or association benefits.
This new proposed law would require Associations to adopt, and review at least every 3 years, a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment. The policy shall ensure association members do not subject others to fear or intimidation. The policy shall afford all members the same protections.
(h) If the association receives a report of bullying, the association would be required to investigate. After the association completes its investigation, it would be required to submit its findings to the local ombudsman who shall, upon a finding of a violation or a finding that a member has wrongfully and intentionally accused another of an act of bullying or harassment:
- Provide a written warning to the member upon a finding of a first offense.
- Require the member to complete an anger management treatment program upon a finding of a second offense.
- Impose a $100 fine upon a finding of a third or subsequent offense.
Here’s the good news for me. I’m 50 years old. In about 5 years there’s no question that under this proposed new law, I can get my wife convicted of bullying. She can be intimidating, cause me to fear for my physical safety, makes threatening gestures and even cyberbullies me when she tells me off in electronic texts.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of protecting senior citizens. But, do we really need a law designed to specifically only protect seniors that live in a 55 and over community association? There are already laws that protect the elderly from abusive behavior. There are already provisions of the criminal code that make bullying and threats of violence or gestures a crime. There are already computer crimes on the books. There are already provisions of the Florida Condominium Act and Homeowner Association Act that would allow the association or its members to sue another owner who harasses or intimidates another owner. Why does a Senior who lives in a 55 and over community warrant a special law for them as opposed to a senior that doesn’t live in a 55 and over community? In fact, I would guess that a senior is more likely to be a victim of harassment or bullying if they were not living in a 55 and over community.
Do we want to give Boards of Directors in 55 and over communities all of this additional work, instead of the Board simply being able to sue the offender or report them to the police? Why force the Board to do this work if the worst penalty even a repeat offender can get is a $100.00 fine?
The men and women who live in our 55 and over communities today are some of the toughest people this world has ever seen. During their lifetimes, they stared down and beat up the world’s biggest bullies. They don’t need this legislation to protect them. And anyone who is sick and depraved enough to actually bully an elderly person is not going to stop because of a warning letter or hundred dollar fine. We all know what gets a bully to stop their conduct. It only stops when someone stands up to them and fights back. This bill hardly does that.