A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog called It’s Time To Stop A True Florida Farce. The blog spoke about the fact that members of community association boards of directors can still get certified without taking an educational class. Instead, they can sign a rather silly piece of paper that states they have read their governing documents and promise to enforce them. What a joke.
I sent the column by e-mail to all Florida legislators, urging them to change the law and make certification through education mandatory. Senator Anna Maria Rodriguez asked me to send her my proposed legislation. I did. I am happy and so proud to report that Senator Rodriguez filed Senate Bill 394 mirroring my proposed legislation.
There is no doubt that mandatory education will save the lives, properties and money of the millions of people who live in condominiums throughout the state. Florida would be the first and only state to require a board member to take an educational course. That would be an amazing bright spot for our state and no doubt would lead other states to eventually adopt similar requirements.
I had the pleasure of teaching my Condo Craze and HOAs Board Certification class last week in Miami and Palm Beach to so many people. I taught the importance of having reserve accounts, having reserve studies done by qualified people and the danger in completely waiving the funding of reserve accounts year after year after year. Interestingly enough, when I asked the crowd if the law should be changed to requiring at least some form of reserves and having the reserve study done by experts, EVERYONE RAISED THEIR HAND. People want to be safe. We learned a lot after the Champlain Towers disaster.
Think about this. The Florida Legislature will no doubt make some massive changes to Florida law in this regard. But if members of the Board are not required to attend an educational class, how in the world can they be expected to learn the new laws. And by the way….I don’t want to hear the excused that these classes are burdensome. They are offered on-line and they are offered for free. Anyone who won’t devote a few hours a year to learning the new condo laws does not deserve to be on the board in the first place.
In any event, we owe a debt of gratitude to Senator Rodriguez for her efforts in taking this matter seriously. Keep track of Senate Bill 394 and urge your local House Member and Senator to please support it. If I never get another piece of legislation passed, this is the one that is nearest and dearest to my heart. Education is the key to running a safe community.
Over a decade ago The Florida Legislature thought it was a good idea for members of condo and HOA boards to become “certified”. Sounds like a good idea. The problem is that the legislators allowed for two ways to become certified. One way is by going over to your computer and printing a form that is on the DBPR’s website that basically says I read my governing documents and promise to enforce them. You sign the form and you are now certified. That’s it. That’s all you have to do. If you are a director of a condo, the form does not require you to acknowledge the existence of Florida Statute 718. If you are a member of an HOA board the form does not require you to acknowledge the existence of Florida Statute 720. The form is a joke. The procedure is a joke and an embarrassment to The State of Florida. In fact, many associations still have illegal provisions in their governing documents. The current law actually allows you to become certified if you promise to enforce the illegal provisions in your governing documents.
As my kids go back to school today, I’m proud to say that the second way of becoming certified is by taking a course approved by the DBPR. As so many of you now, I am most proud of the fact that I have certified over 20,000 board members throughout the state. Better yet, the attendees love it. They learn about the requirement to fund reserves, Kaufman language, access to records, mandatory financial reporting, the role of the community association manager, legal ways for the board members to vote and hold meetings, preparation of budgets, the importance and hierarchy of your governing documents, rule making, actions of board members that constitute criminal conduct, ways directors can be removed from the board, the Marketable Record Title Act and the importance of preserving your governing documents in an HOA, obligations to maintain insurance, mandatory websites, material alterations, screening, approval and denial of occupants AND SO MUCH MORE.
It is an insult to every director who has been certified by taking a course to allow other directors the ability to get certified by signing a stupid self-serving form. We are now repeatedly learning the hard way throughout our state that lack of knowledge can lead to catastrophic consequences in our communities.
MANDATORY EDUCATION FOR BOARD MEMBERS CAN SAVE LIVES. Florida has always led the way when it came to making community association laws that the rest of the country follows. The State of Florida has the opportunity to become the first state in the country to require that directors become educated before assuming the incredible responsibilities that come with being in charge of our communities. There is no excuse any longer for a Board member not to take an educational class. Many law firms, like mine, teach the class on-line. A board member never even has to leave his or her home in order to become certified.
I urge the members of The Florida Legislature to amend the condominium, co-op and HOA statutes to remove the ability to become “certified” by signing a form and instead require attendance at an educational course. I already drafted the proposed legislation and it’s ready to be filed. With all my heart, I believe lives can be saved, financial disasters can be avoided and it is in the best interest of the millions of Floridians who live in a community association. Readers: please contact your legislators if you agree.