Shake-Up in Holly Lake HOA in Florida‏

guest blog by Deborah Goonan

Bob Norman of Channel 10 has taken on yet another rogue HOA in Florida.

One of the oddities of some HOAs in Florida is that the Board of Directors retains the authority to screen and reject buyers and tenants. But what are the criteria used to arrive at those decisions?

The “HOA screening” issue has been a contentious one in Florida, as many would-be buyers or tenants have sued or filed formal complaints of discrimination.

For example, last year, one Venice HOA enacted restrictions for unmarried couples seeking to buy or lease a home! The Board claimed the July 2013 amendment was an erroneous oversight, but has never offered a reasonable explanation of how or why the single-people-or-married-couples-only restriction was approved. The media picked up on the outrageous restriction, and that prompted the HOA to amend its declarations to eliminate the discriminatory restriction.

Holly Lake HOA, located near the Everglades in South Florida, is the latest site of buyer-tenant review controversy. But this one involves a Board member apparently profiting from his position. It seems that Board Treasurer Paul Morales has been approving plenty of applications to purchase (or lease) units, but nearly all of those buyers have been family members and business affiliates. Meanwhile, it has been alleged that other buyers or tenants lacking direct ties to Morales have been rejected without satisfactory explanation.

Bob Norman’s review of public records seems to support those claims. Check out the video report. HOA members are calling for a criminal investigation, and have put pressure on Morales and colleague Ed Patton (President of the Board), prompting both men to choose not to run for reelection for the Board. Coincidence?

Another bit of irony: Florida Statute stipulates that convicted felons cannot serve on the Board; however, it does not require background checks for Board candidates. Yet Florida Statute fully allows Board to screen and background check their tenants and buyers! Talk about a double standard. Guess what? It just so happens that Morales faced federal charges in 2000, involving a past real estate deal – charges that were mysteriously dropped.

As usual, requests for access to financial records have been ignored, and one owner has been harassed for daring to ask questions. Also predictable, although the conflict of interest seems obvious to anyone with two active brain cells, there has not been any determination of illegality.

Link to Channel 10, Bob Norman, Holly Lake HOA story

link to Herald Tribune, Casa di Amici COA story on amendments to restrictions

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Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

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