Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sea change for Florida's 60,000 homeowners associations - Sun Sentinel

Sea change for Florida's 60,000 homeowners associations - Sun Sentinel

"On July 1, Florida law was amended to give condominiums, cooperatives and homeowners' associations throughout Florida the right to conduct membership votes online. While online voting has been permitted for some time in other states, this new law represents a sea change for Florida's more than 60,000 community associations. For communities with a large percentage of investor and snowbird owners, online voting gives these owners a newfound opportunity to participate in important membership votes in their association. Currently, many of these owners are unable to timely return voting materials and they are disenfranchised as a result. Even for owners who are local but do not wish to attend meetings or send in a proxy, online voting may spark an increase in their participation."

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Ordinarily I'm in favor of making voting easier in all elections. I hear from young people all the time that they want to vote in public elections with their smart phones.  But here we have the issue of whether absentee/investor owners have a different set of interests than the resident owners who actually live in the community. If so, making it easier for non-residents to vote changes the balance of interests in elections. Attorney Donna Berger is the author of this article and she is all for this change, and her firm is selling a software voting package.  We will have to see how this works out in practice.

2 comments:

IC_deLight said...

Fundamentally is there a "right to vote" that exists with these involuntary membership organizations? If not then what has been achieved other than Donna Berger selling more copies of her software?

I could care less if non-resident owners have different interests than the residents. This is a fundamental problem of allowing the HOA/condo organization to control too much of the individual's use and enjoyment of their own unit. You want to talk about pool hours? Fine - the interests probably aren't that different. But resident owners aren't interested in being treated as tenants - and tenants aren't interested in being treated as if they have the liabilities of ownership. If the rules are that "owners vote" then by all means the HOA/condo shouldn't be depriving owners from voting. The problem Evan talks about can be resolved by limiting the things that the HOA/condo has control over.

Deborah Goonan said...

The very nature of Association Governed Residential Communities is that votes are allocated to the PROPERTY owned, not to the PERSON. That automatically gives investors and non-resident owners a voice and a vote for each and every unit they happen to own - even if they never step foot onto the property.

In Florida, this is particularly egregious when you consider the volume of foreign investors in real estate. And let's not forget that the FBI is investigating high end real estate sales in Miami and NYC, especially where foreign investors and LLCs are involved.
E-voting will only make it easier for investors to exploit an already inequitable, hierachical voting structure.

I predict we will see another upswing in hostile condo takeovers and investor-imposed remodeling special assessments in associations that take advantage of e-voting.