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Preparing for Emergencies in 2012

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FEMA has launched a campaign which urges Americans to make preparedness a new year’s resolution.  The prioirty campaign is named: Resolve to be Ready in 2012.  More than 20 disaster declarations covered much of the southeast U.S. in 2011. All of these events have served as important reminders that disasters can strike anytime, anywhere, and being prepared is one of the most effective things we can do to protect our homes, businesses and loved ones.

“One of the most important lessons we can take away from this year is that disasters can impact all of us, no matter what part of the country we live in,” said FEMA Regional Administrator Phil May. “Resolving to be Ready in 2012 could be the most important pledge you make this year.”

By making a resolution to take a few simple steps in advance, Americans can minimize the impact of an emergency on their families, homes or businesses. To take the pledge, visit www.ready.gov/resolve.

C&S 2012 Holiday Schedule

C&S follows the County Holiday Schedule. For this reason, C&S holiday closings will sometimes be different than the State and Federal Holiday Schedules.

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Email Server Maintenance

The C&S email server will be down for scheduled maintenance from 9:00 AM, Saturday, December 31st to 10:00 AM, Sunday, January 1, 2012.  Any email sent to C&S while the system is down is not lost and will be delivered when the system is back online.

Update:  Email is back up and running several hours ahead of schedule.

DBPR Enforcing Unlicensed Activity

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Ken Lawson, the Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is asking all Floridians to help in the enforcement of unlicensed activity in all professions. "Unlicensed activity is illegal and can result in misdemeanor or felony charges if an individual is convicted. Floridians should report any suspected unlicensed activity by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or calling the Unlicensed Activity Hotline at 1-866-532-1440."

For the complete letter from Secretary Lawson, click Secretary's Letter.

C&S New Year's Greeting

The C&S staff wishes everyone a happy and safe New Years!

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Florida Dismal Foreclosure Update

Community Associations struggling to make ends meet, due to a large number of homes or condominium units in foreclosure, will see more negative news today.

CNN reports that the average time to complete a foreclosure in Florida is now up to 1,027 days.  This clearly shows how inadequate the current law is since banks pay only 365 days of past due assessments or less, when they take title from the foreclosure.   The law also protects the nonpaying owner whereby they often live for years in the home or condominium unit for free, while their neighbors pay their expenses.  Here is the full CNN article: CNN Foreclosure Article
 
Florida Commercial News headline reports that "Florida Supreme Court Admits Failure of Its Residential Mortgage Mediation Program: Sad News for Florida as Foreclosure Crisis Continues."  There are already over 350,000 foreclosures sitting on court dockets in Florida right now with many more waiting to be filed.  Here is the full Florida Commercial News Article:  Mortgage Mediation Article

C&S Christmas and New Years Holiday Closings

The C&S Offices will be closed Monday, December 26, 2011 for the Christmas Holiday.  The offices will reopen on Tuesday, December 27, 2011.

The offices will be closed Monday January 2, 2012 for the New Years Holiday.  The offices will reopen on Tuesday, January 3, 2012.

Thank you and we hope you enjoy the holidays.

C&S Christmas and New Years Holiday Closings

The C&S Offices will be closed Monday, December 26, 2011 for the Christmas Holiday.  The offices will reopen on Tuesday, December 27, 2011.

The offices will be closed Monday January 2, 2012 for the New Years Holiday.  The offices will reopen on Tuesday, January 3, 2012.

Thank you and we hope you enjoy the holidays.

C&S Thank You and Christmas Greeting

Thank you to all our clients and we wish you a very happy and safe holiday!

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Looking Ahead to 2012

We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Along with the excitement of the holiday season, we at C&S are very excited about the roll out of our new website and association websites.   There are many new features available which will facilitate greater communication.   In these challenging economic times, it is very important to use digital forms of communications whenever possible to help save on postage and printing costs.

Looking forward to 2012, C&S is planning many activities.  Look for us March 9, 2012 at the Community Associations Day which is presented by the Community Association Institute (CAI).   CA Day will be held at the Manatee Convention Center on Haben Blvd., Palmetto, FL.   C&S is again a major sponsor.   This is the largest educational and trade show event of the year so please plan to come out and be sure to stop by to visit with us at our booth. 

August 10, 2011

It's amazing how fast this year is going by. Seems like only yesterday associations passed their annual budgets. If you have not already started, it is time again to begin the budget process. August is the time to get all information together to prepare the first draft. C&S managers will be working with association boards for a first draft to be completed in September.

The Florida Legislature and Governor have embarked on a bold plan to stabilize insurance prices over the long term. By allowing prices to significantly increase short term, it is believed that insurance carriers will return to Florida and with the increased competition, prices will stabilize and begin to decrease. Citizen Insurance cannot cover the amount of policies it presently has in the event of a major event. Since the budget is prepared well in advance of when the association's 2012 increase will be known, C&S and the association's insurance agent try to determine the best amount to place in the budget for insurance. This is sometimes a very challenging task.

June 20, 2011

House Bill 1195 has finally been signed by Governor Rick Scott and will go into effect July 1, 2011. The bill has been referred to as the “glitch bill” due to cleaning up many loose ends from last year’s changes. Two such items are that now the entire rent paid from a tenant may be required to be paid to the association for current and back unpaid assessments, and those units or lots that are over 90 days delinquent may be removed from the quorum and vote counts to pass actions of the association.

The first law firm guide has been published and you may see it by clicking here: Guidebook to House Bill 1195

May, 2011

While our Legislature and Governor are finishing this year's legislative session, we thought we would provide you some news from the Federal level. The Community Associations Institute reports that as the Federal Government continues its push to reform the mortgage finance system, CAI members should take comfort knowing that their efforts to shape the debate have started to bear fruit. In fact, members' efforts on two critical issues, the Federal Housing Administration condominium guidelines and the Federal Housing Finance Agency's private transfer fee regulation, have not only impacted the policy debate, they have made national headlines. Based on these early returns, CAI will continue to chalk up victories for all associations.

On the two biggest federal issues facing associations, CAI secured important victories. First, in March, FHA issued a waiver on rental restrictions. Originally, to qualify for FHA-backed mortgages, rules required that at least 50 percent of units in a condominium be owner occupied. FHA would have disqualified any association that adopted a rental restriction. Ironically, many condominiums put rental restrictions in place at FHA's urging years ago. CAI highlighted the inconsistency, and FHA issued a waiver, allowing condominiums with rental restrictions to qualify for financing.

Another important development critical to associations has been the issue of deed-based, private transfer fees. Last fall, the FHFA issued a craft regulation that would have effectively cut off any federally backed mortgages to properties with a deed-based transfer fee. FHFA was unaware that such fees have long been used by about half of all community associations to fund reserves, capitol projects and operations. If the FHFA proceeded, up to 11 million homes in community associations would have been unable to qualify for most mortgage products. Thanks to CAI member grassroots efforts, FHFA issued a revised draft of its proposal and addressed almost all of the issues raised by CAI members. Not only did FHFA publicly note the tremendous response from CAI members, but our grassroots efforts made the headlines in The Washington Post, which singled out CAI members' efforts as "swift and intense". CAI is currently submitting comments on the revised proposal.

In addition to these projects, CAI has made it easier to follow all the mortgage issues and changing rules. To keep our members engaged on the latest news, calls to action and impact of new regulations, CAI established the Mortgage Matters program. The program will provide members with updates on various federal mortgage issues. It is designed to provide a comprehensive view of federal regulatory and legal changes, and to offer members opportunities for education and input into our ongoing efforts.

As soon as the Florida Legislative session ends, the Governor signs or vetoes the bills, and we have the initial legal reviews, we will update everyone on this year's changes.

February, 2011

C&S wishes to invite everyone to two upcoming events. March 4, 2011 is Community Association Day which is a free education expo and trade show, presented by the West Florida Chapter of the Community Associations Institute. CA Day will be at the Manatee Convention Center and C&S is a major sponsor. We hope everyone will come by and take advantage of the education opportunities and be sure and visit us at our booth.

Our second event to inform you of is on April 14th, 2011 and it is a free seminar "The Conflict Resolution Process", also presented by the West Florida Chapter of the Community Associations Institute. The panelists include Attorney Mary Hawk, of Porges, Hamlin, Knowles & Prouty P.A., President Anthony Sawyer, The Meadows Master Association, and our own, Chris Brown, PCAM, of C&S Management. The program is divided into seven sections: 1. Typical Conflicts, 2. Selective Enforcement, 3. Pre-emptive Tools, 4. "The Knock on the Door" - The Process Begins, 5. Hearing and Fining Committees/HOAs, Condominiums, 6. Injunctions & Other Scary Sounding Legal Stuff, 7. Question and Answers.

The Conflict Resolution Process seminar will take place at the Venice Community Center, 326 South Nokomis Ave., Venice, Florida, 34285. We hope to see you there.

January, 2011

C&S wishes everyone a very happy, healthy, and prosperous new year. Recent trends show a stabilization forming regarding community association delinquency and bad debt. While we certainly have not turned the corner, the delinquent amount of member fees for community associations, is leveling out so we are hopeful that 2011 will be seen as a better year than past few. This is significantly due to the large increase in "short sales" that are occurring in the Tampa Bay area.

From the association’s point of view, short sales are a very positive alternative to foreclosure by either the bank or the association. Two main reasons are: first, the association controls how much if any will be written off the outstanding balance for the short sale to proceed. In a bank foreclosure, per Florida Statute, it is usually only 1% of the original mortgage which is generally much less than what is owed. Second, short sale homes are much better kept up than those homes that are in foreclosure or have been completely abandoned. The homeowner wants to sell the home so they are trying to keep everything up and attractive. With foreclosed properties, the association is usually left with the choice of letting the appearance continue to decline which can affect the neighboring homes or units, or the association at its expense (your expense) will try to keep the property maintained. The association can try to collect on its costs but since the home is likely to continue through to foreclosure, there is very little hope of collection, and remember per Florida Statute, when the bank takes title, the association receives the lesser of 12 months back member fees or 1% of the original mortgage, which will generally not even cover the back member fees. There is no provision in the Statute to recoup maintenance and upkeep costs.

Since we are at the start of our new year we can certainly be optimistic at this point and hope that 2011 ends the year showing that the bottom has been reached and we can look forward to improvement in the years to come.

August, 2010

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which passed Congress in 1990 has created challenges for associations since its passage. Many far reaching scenarios have been presented to Boards of Directors to allow all types of animals as service animals.

In July of this year, the Department of Justice has released new regulations that clarify the intent of Congress. Although the definition of disability has been greatly broadened, the use of service animals has been greatly limited. Only two animals may now be used as a service animal to assist with a person's disability, specifically the dog and miniature horse.

Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained are not service animals, per the new rule. The main consideration now is the animal's training. It is now clear that a dog's training takes precedence over the owner's disability. Dogs that simply provide companionship and comfort, no longer qualify as a service animal. Legitimate service animals are exempt from association pet restrictions.

Examples of tasks that qualify as service are now available and include: guiding the blind, alerting deaf owners to sounds, pulling wheelchairs, assisting a person during a seizure, alerting owners to allergens, retrieving medicine or the phone, supporting people with mobility problems and impeding impulsive or destructive behavior.

As a side note motorized conveyances have also been expanded to include golf carts and Segways to operate in areas without defined pedestrian routes.

June, 2010

Senate Bill 1196 has been signed by the governor and will go into effect July 1, 2010. The bill contains a wide range of changes to community association laws. This reform bill has many very positive changes for community associations but unfortunately does not provide the desired assistance to delinquency/foreclosure problems. Although the number of past due assessment months a foreclosing bank or mortgage company must pay to a condominium association upon taking title was raised to twelve months, the alternative 1% of the original mortgage remained the same. Since in most foreclosures the 1% was already less than the six months assessments, the increase to twelve months will only help in a very few number of cases. By Statute the mortgage holder only pays the association the lower of the 1% or twelve months. Homeowner associations were already at 12 months.

Attorney Donna Burger was one of those who worked hard to secure passage of SB 1196 and she did a very good job watching out for community association interests. Her Fort Lauderdale law firm prepared an excellent review of Senate Bill 1196. You may see it by clicking here: Guidebook to Senate Bill 1196

March, 2010

C&S, an innovator in community association management, once again sets precedent for the management industry. C&S has added a money back guaranty to it management contract. If a new client does not experience what is referred to as the C&S difference within the first 90 days, the management service is free. No questions, no loopholes, simply a full refund. C&S is so confident that the association will want C&S to continue as its management company that the full refund guaranty can be offered.

January, 2010

The new C&S website begins its roll out. The website will be updated throughout 2010 and will change from both the outside appearance and inside workings. The first step is the new look and feel of the website. The second step which will occur later in the year is the behind the scenes workings of the site. When complete, association websites will have better organization of stored files and information along with other enhanced features.

June, 2009

There will be no new condominium or HOA legislation this year. Early this month, Governor Charlie Crist vetoed the one bill that had been passed, SB 714. It had made several changes to the Condominium Act, notably correcting problems in the 2008 legislation in matters concerning unit insurance and certification by Director candidates of having read the documents and state laws governing the condominium. The reason given by the Governor in his veto message was the provision of SB 714 that would have delayed condominium fire sprinkler retrofit requirements from 2014 to 2025. This is the same reason, as Governor Crist noted, which was given by then Governor Jeb Bush for his veto of a comprehensive change of condo and HOA legislation in 2006, which contained a comparable delay in that sprinkler retrofit law.