By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Waterside Pointe is the quintessential example of what it’s like to live in a homeowners’ association governed by its developer for many years, in a legal environment where owners have virtually no control over the fate of their own community.
Whenever trade group Community Associations Institute (CAI) starts spreading half-truths about HOA Board being “elected by” and composed of “neighbors,” it makes me cringe.
Newsflash: every new subdivision or condominium project starts off its life create of, by, and for the financial profit of a developer. And then said developer continues to control that “community” for years, perhaps even decades, until most of the units are built and sold to homeowners. Literally millions of homeowners are currently living in developer-controlled association governed housing.
They cannot “vote the bums” off the board. They cannot overcome their “apathy” and their options for being “engaged” and making a difference in their communities are severely limited.
In Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel, turnover of control to owners doesn’t start until 90% of units have been sold. But other states have similar laws that protect the interests of developers, without too much thought for the interests of home buying consumers and taxpaying homeowners.
In Waterside Pointe, homeowners have been battling CalAtlantic for more than two years – even protesting in public near the entry to the subdivision. According to homeowners suing the developer, their “lake” resembles a swamp, the roads are in poor condition, recreational amenities that had been promised were never delivered, and the security gates are frequently malfunctioning. Yet they each still pay thousands of dollars in assessments each year. Where does the money go?
Why isn’t the state Attorney General’s Office assisting these homeowners? Weren’t they deceived by false advertising?
Well, it’s because the AG, and state government in general, insists that HOA disputes over poor maintenance and alleged deceptive business practices are purely “civil matters.”
So the homeowners’ only legal recourse is to file an expensive civil suit against a well-funded developer.
That’s hardly the American Dream – more like a nightmare.
Waterside Watchdogs sue builder over neglect
Lake County’s perennial protesters at Waterside Pointe recently kicked up the festivities a notch when they filed a class-action lawsuit against the developers of the subdivision where they’ve been protesting for nearly two years.
Perhaps you’ve seen the Waterside Watchdogs. The crew has moved from a location in front of the developer’s office inside the Groveland subdivision to frontage on State Road 50 during the weekend protests. (Hey, the developer sued to have them moved and won that point, so they went to an even more visible spot, thus illustrating for developer CalAtlantic Group Inc. the irony in the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for — you might get it.”)
The lawsuit filed by Eustis lawyer Derek Schroth is just beginning, but its complaints are familiar: It asks a judge to declare the developer in violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and force CalAtlantic to clean up the community, where the amenities “are in a constant state of neglect,” despite advertising to the contrary.