|PROPOSALS FOR RESTORING TRUST IN CAM LICENSES|
A PRESENTATION BY TERENCE BRENNAN,
MEMBER OF THE REGULATORY COUNCIL OF COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION MANAGERS
FOR RESTORING TRUST IN CAM LICENSES
Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of
Regulation "monitors those professions and related businesses to
ensure that the laws, rules and standards set by the Legislature are
followed. This is accomplished
by proactively monitoring the professionals and related businesses;
aggressively pursuing and investigating complaints of wrongdoing;
utilizing compliance mechanisms such as notices of noncompliance and
citations; and the performance of statutorily mandated inspections."
From the 2006-2007 Division of Regulation Annual Report
These are strong words from the DBPR -- but are they
merely words? The best statutes are useless without enforcement.
The Department's consistent avoidance of enforcement fails everyone
-- the public, property owners, and the many fine Community Association
Managers who act professionally. It
is a disservice to Florida. This
situation must change!
of CAM Regulation
Community Association Managers affect the biggest
investment most people ever make -- their homes.
When owners buy, they are told about bylaws that must be followed
and that the rules will be enforced. But
how do they feel when they find out that the association’s board and the
CAM are ignoring with impunity the very same bylaws -- and even State laws
-- whenever they please?
Once owners find out that the boards or CAMs are above the law, it
becomes apparent that the value and safety of the home is in jeopardy.
of Complaints, Investigations and Prosecutions
Complaints against CAMs are handled behind closed
doors. Without a transparent process, there is no way to refute false
information supplied by CAMs, and no way to ensure a fair investigation by
the DBPR. Complainants who
raise serious issues are left baffled as to why their complaints are
ignored and dismissed by the DBPR. Over
97% of CAM complaints are dismissed without explanation.
: The DBPR dismisses 97% of
CAM complaints without disciplinary action.
Filing a complaint is difficult and risky for both
complainants and witnesses. After
they have registered a complaint, conflicts and tensions at their
association can make life miserable for complainants and expose them to retaliation.
The DBPR may close the case without ever notifying the
complainant. There is a 97%
probability that they will be left with no remedy.
Reading the public records is both revealing and
depressing. One complainant
supplied more than 200 pages of documents, including minutes of board
meetings, e-mails, and a letter from a CPA who said it was impossible to
do his job because of the manager's bad bookkeeping and missing financial
documents. Then after months
of not hearing a word about the complaint from the DBPR, the complainant
received a form letter that the case was closed due to "insufficient
Another complaint filed in 2002 is still not resolved
in 2008, despite a court ruling in a related matter finding that the
"Association is merely a sham which does not exercise any authority
and acts solely at the behest of the management company."
In a third case, the DBPR asked for an
"expert" opinion, but then disregarded it and closed the case
despite the consultant's opinion that "after reviewing all the
documents provided, it is apparent that there is sufficient evidence to
pursue action against (the CAM) on the violation of F.S. 468.436(1)(b)5 -
If a complaint is supported by relevant documents,
then a letter or phone call from the CAM to the investigator denying the
accusations should never be considered enough reason to close an
investigation. But this
When CAMs are accused of violations, it is
irresponsible for investigators to accept their denials as unchallenged
fact. Unsupported words are
meaningless. Decisions must be
based on documentation and witnesses’ testimony.
Testimony must be given under oath.
Decisive legal action is needed to protect Florida homeowners.
It buries the truth when complainants are kept
uninformed, while the CAM's statements are accepted as gospel.
This bias protects CAMs from facing their accusers, or even having
to tell the truth. With
investigators that don't investigate and "experts" who disregard
facts to suit their bias, there are some very obvious reasons that 97% of
complaints are never processed.
The public records contain examples of fraternization
between investigators and CAMs; for example, discussing "pregnancy
and how it goes with the new baby."
In another example, the investigator's report relates the CAM
stated the complaint was "Sour grapes. She lost the election."
The motives of a complainant and the popularity of a CAM are
irrelevant to the DBPR's enforcement mission.
All that matters is whether or not the CAM is following the law
in view of the actual evidence. This
simple fact is often ignored when the DBPR "resolves" cases
through consultation with CAMs and "experts" behind closed
Case history files are not disclosed to the
complainant, unless they invest in a public record request.
But since the DBPR does not notify complainants when action occurs
within a case, in practice, the complainant would have no way to even know
that the public records exist. And
even if these records are obtained, there is no remedy when the records
show that the department mishandled a complaint.
If there is "insufficient evidence"
or "lack of documentation," then it is the investigator's
job to get out of the office and look for it!
Failure to investigate is no excuse for ignoring a violation and
closing a case. Complaints are
filed by ordinary people, and they do the best they can.
Since the complainants are not “experts,” they cannot be
expected to anticipate every legal detail.
The DBPR staff should make it a priority to follow its own mission
statement to "aggressively
pursue and investigate complaints."
Certainly, the Department's mission is not to protect CAMs
accused of violating their licenses.
A common excuse from CAMs is that they acted on
direction of the board, but that is not acceptable.
Nor is it any sort of defense against violations when the CAM says
he is popular with the board. CAMs
are licensed professionals and the license carries responsibility.
How do you think complainants and witnesses willing to
testify under oath feel when they find out that they were not notified
about the hearing in front of the administrative judge?
Perhaps the CAM has cost their association a lot of money.
They have spent years waiting to see the violator prosecuted while
they supplied the Department with ample proof about the violation.
Yet they end up being excluded from the hearing for which they may
have waited many years.
If we don't create clear and effective procedures for
handling Community Association Manager complaints, investigations and
prosecutions, then the profession and the DBPR will continue to lose
The DBPR's enforcement response to complaints sets the
minimum performance standards for the professions.
CAMs must come to understand that their licenses are valid only as
long as they stay within the law. Credibility
is totally lost when the public sees a CAM's record, such as this one with
complaint after complaint -- but no enforcement:
Every time a CAM violates law or ethics but there is
no enforcement, it looks as though the State of Florida is saying,
"He paid his license fee so and that's all we care about."
More than six million people live in condominiums and
homeowners’ associations in Florida.
About 10,000 CAMs work to manage many of these.
Because CAM’s actions financially affect so many people, and
considering the damage caused by the minority of bad CAMs, the lack of
regulation tells the public that Florida state government is just not
doing its job. The statistic
of 97% non-enforcement also tells irresponsible CAMs that they can do
whatever they want.
The State of Florida does not control who serves on a
board. But the state does
control who may work as a CAM and the scope of that person’s
The credibility of the CAM license must be restored.
Then a Florida license will be a credential ensuring a Community
Association Manager can be relied upon to perform competently, ethically
Brennan, Consumer Member
Regulatory Council for Community Association Managers November 7, 2008