Forget city hall; this man fought his HOA .. and won

Article and Video Courtesy of Channel 12 CBS

By Tara Cardoso

Published May 25, 2011

WEST BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Millions of Floridians are living in homeowner's associations, paying thousands of dollars in dues. But where is all that money really going?

You pay. And you have a right to know. And what if you suspect some funny business?


One man took the questions that he could not get answered, and found the answers himself, raising quite a ruckus along the way. There's a new law that could help you do the same.

Robert Bernhardt got fed up, he says, of asking his west Boca Raton homeowner's association board members questions about money and not getting answers.

"I wasn't going to put up with that type of response, that 'I know better than you'," Bernhardt said. "They say, 'well this is the way we've always been doing things, why change? If it's not broke, don't fix it.'

"I said, it is broke."

So, he started researching HOA's and laws and wrote all the homeowners a letter about what he calls cronyism and favoritism.

Boy, did he get their attention. 

Homeowners, who pay $3,000 a year in HOA fees, came out in droves to vote him in as the new president, changing Timberwalk's board after 13 years.

So, what did Robert find so suspicious?

First, he says none of the service contracts had been up for bid for years. Like a $165,000 annual contract for landscaping.

The property management company got a whopping $567,000 dollars a year. $148,000 for bookkeeping, including a charge of more than $4 for each letter sent out to homeowners.

We've learned that associations don't have to take bids on certain services, but Bernhardt feels it just makes good business sense.

"It's very frustrating when you're not part of making the decisions and you're on the outside," Bernhardt said.

Ritchi Kuperman is a property manager for a totally separate community, but he knows all about unhappy residents and concerns about spending money and about homeowners feeling like their voices are not heard.

Kuperman says anyone who has questions should do what Bernhardt did and ask for copies of everything, in writing, by certified mail.

The new Timberwalk board is now reviewing contracts to save money.

"We have a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck right now," Bernhardt said.