News from Florida

FLORIDA – Riverview neighbors upset about abandoned home owned by HOA

ABC Action News:  Riverview neighbors upset about abandoned home owned by HOA
By Clifton French
April 5, 2017

RIVERVIEW, Fla. – Neighbors in a Riverview neighborhood are raising major concerns about an abandoned home that’s owned by their homeowner’s association.

Neighbors say the property at 13522 Fladgate Mark Drive has been vacant for years, but 4 months ago the South Fork of Hillsborough County III HOA purchased the home, according to the property appraiser’s website.

The outside of the home has several broken windows, mildew and other stains on the walls, and a dead and weed infested lawn among other problems.

The inside of the home is covered in splattered food, feces and clothes. Vandals have destroyed many rooms. One wall was almost completely bashed in.  Read more:

FLORIDA – Riverview couple may get reprieve from foreclosure over $150 association fee

CCFJ.NET: Riverview couple may get reprieve from foreclosure over $150 association fee

Article Courtesy of The Tampa Bay Times

By D’Ann Lawrence White

Published April 1, 2017

RIVERVIEW — A Riverview family on the brink of losing their home for failing to pay a $150 homeowners association fee has been offered an 11th hour chance at mediation following news coverage of their plight.

Tampa property rights attorney Ryan Torrens, who represents Tina and Luis Lopez, said the law firm for the Rivercrest Master Homeowners Association approached him about mediating the dispute over the Lopez family’s 2009 homeowners association fee.

The change-of-heart comes as state lawmakers are considering a measure that addresses many of the issues arising from the Lopez family’s case, including a requirement that homeowners’ associations provide more notice when members fall behind on fees.
Read more:

http://www.ccfj.net/ForeclReprieve.htm

FLORIDA – Editorial: Laws that get homeowners booted over fees need changing

CCFJ.NET:  Editorial: Laws that get homeowners booted over fees need changing

Article Courtesy of The Tampa Bay Times

Published April 2, 2017

The case of Tina and Luis Lopez, who are on the verge of losing their home of 12 years over a $150 payment to their homeowners’ association, exposes a system bereft of fairness and proportion. Even common sense went out the window in the Kafka-like series of events that put the home of this innocent Riverview couple and their two children on the auction block.

Worst of all, they didn’t even know it was happening.

They may get a reprieve next week with an 11th hour mediation hearing, thanks to reporting by Tampa Bay Times correspondent D’Ann Lawrence White. But Florida, called upon often to tinker with statutes governing the divisive, de facto city halls known as homeowners’ associations, needs to tinker once again to conform its laws with logic if not fairness.

People living in communities governed by one of the state’s 13,000 homeowners’ associations, and there are 2.5 million of them in Florida, are subject to an escalating series of fines and fees if they fail to pay dues they owe their association. And there is no requirement that the association provide them any notice — or even a bill for annual dues — until they’re ready to slap a lien on the home.

Adding to the nonsense: Once homeowners do learn of the debt and try to bring it down, any payments they make can go first to the fines and fees, leaving the dues owed and the home still subject to liens, foreclosure and auction.

The beneficiaries of this system are the collectors of the fines and fees. In the case of the Rivercrest neighborhood where the Lopez family lives, and in hundreds of other neighborhoods across Florida, that’s a single Tampa law firm that has made a business of these questionable practices.  Read more:

FLORIDA – Miami-Dade lawmakers want criminal penalties for fraud and abuse by condo directors

CCFJ.NET:  Miami-Dade lawmakers want criminal penalties for fraud and abuse by condo directors

Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald
By Brenda Medina and Erika Carrillo

Published March 13, 2017

After decades of struggling against a condo regulatory system that experts say perpetuates impunity and makes it easy to commit fraud, thousands of condominium owners in Florida may finally see substantial changes in state laws

Earlier this month, state senators and representatives from Miami-Dade filed a bill that includes 21 reforms to Chapter 718 of the Florida statutes. The reforms seek to correct gaps in the laws and establish criminal penalties for some irregularities in the administration of condos.

The plan classifies falsification of documents, an offense that now carries no legal consequences, as a third degree felony and sets prison terms. It also criminalizes electoral fraud, such as the falsification of signatures on ballots for condo boards of directors, and refusing access to administrative records with the intent to cover up crimes.  Read more:

FLORIDA – Riverview family’s loss in court shows how HOA lawyers pile on fees

CCFJ.NET:  Riverview  family’s  loss in court shows how HOA lawyers pile on fees

Article Courtesy of The Tampa Bay Times

By D’Ann Lawrence White

Published March 7, 2017

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Joelle Ann Ober has upheld the sale of the Riverview home where Tina and Luis Lopez have lived 12 years and raised their two children. The home was sold to an investor at a public auction for $19,000 and a new certificate of title has been issued.

Tina Lopez shared the bad news with her 16-year-old son, Anthony, but hesitated to tell 8-year-old daughter, Jessica.

“This is the only home Jessica’s ever known,” Tina Lopez said. “I don’t know how I’m going to tell her. We’re just devastated.”

The Lopez family isn’t packing their bags just yet, though. They’ve hired Tampa attorney Ryan Torrens, whose practice specializes in homeowner association foreclosures, for a last ditch attempt. Torrens filed an emergency request Monday to vacate the judge’s decision.

The Lopez family’s story, published last month in the Tampa Bay Times, drew widespread reaction from others in the same boat and from critics of those homeowners associations who use aggressive means, including foreclosure, to collect dues and fees.

In Lopez family’s case, the Rivercrest Community Association failed to record a $150 annual payment they made in 2009. They even have a canceled check showing they made the payment.  Read more: