Florida Bar locked in legislative “food fight” with community association managers

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A legal dispute between the Florida Bar and a coalition of community association managers (CAMs) are casting doubt on the chances of approval for a bill facing the House as the legislative session winds down.

HB 7037 seeks to expand the responsibilities of CAMs to perform certain duties without violating state regulations on the unlicensed practice of law, reports Gray Rohrer of the Florida Current. The Florida Bar — through its Real Property, Probate & Trust Sections — petitioned the courts in 2012 to have many of those activities, such as drafting contracts, foreclosure liens and specifying a quorum for HOA meetings, declared unlicensed practice of law.

A decision by the Florida Supreme Court in that case is pending.

Lawmakers amended HB 7037 to specify that CAMs could not charge exorbitant fees to provide such services, a move opposed strongly by CAM trade groups supporting the bill.

“You can dress it up, you can call it whatever you want, but this is a new fee,” Rep. George Moraitis told the Current.

Rep. Ross Spano, sponsor of the bill, originally filed the bill to avoid excessive HOA fees, because lawyers could take over the CAM duties and charge higher hourly rates.

After two hours of debate in a House committee, Spano admitted the issue primarily a wrestling match between two distinct interest groups – referring to it as a “food fight.”

The bill is set for a House floor vote on Friday. On Thursday, the Senate postponed a floor vote on their version (SB 1466).

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.