Florida's Community Association Managers Want More Self-Regulation

Tallahassee, FL – The professional managers who oversee much of Florida's housing want more clout when it comes to dealing with the bad apples in their ranks. The Council of Community Association Managers has decided to have its case taken before state lawmakers this year.

If you live in a condominium, large housing development, time share, or mobile home park, Tim Vaccaro says there is a better than even chance that there's a professional community association manager in your life.

"If somebody's providing community association management services to a community in excess of ten units or a budget that's in excess of a hundred-thousand dollars, then they're supposed to be licensed."

Vaccaro is division director of professions for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which gives the exams and licenses community association managers, called "CAMS" for short. Vaccaro says there are lots of CAMS in Florida.

"Right now, there are approximately fourteen to fifteen-thousand individual licensed managers in the state, and the firms, I think we have about a thousand right now."

Vaccaro says those are firms that provide community association management services. They didn't have to be licensed by the state until two years ago. In any case, Vaccaro says there are often conflicts between the manager and the people who own the property.

"When you're talking about a profession, where the person providing the service often lives in the very community that they're serving, that can be a very contentious situation."

Since the managers fall under state oversight, Vaccaro's department handles complaints, which can be serious.

"The community association manager I've requested records and they haven't provided me records', to, I think that the community association manager is diverting funds', or, The community association manager entered a contract with a friend or a relative, and there's something fishy going on here.'"

Some can be trivial.

"The community association manager doesn't want me hanging my towel over the balcony; he's being mean to me; I don't think the community association manager likes me."

Regardless, Vaccaro says all complaints are investigated, and the caseload seems to be growing.

"We have increased our enforcement activities by about a hundred-percent over the course of the last year. We've gotten more proactive in going after unlicensed activity."

Even so, at least some association managers would like to see an even tougher crackdown on colleagues that get out of line. One of them is Patricia Rogers, an association manager from Aventura on the northern edge of Dade County.

"There are management companies out there that are absolutely fantastic, and they do everything they can to make sure that their managers are well educated and know what they're doing. There are others that may not be as diligent and we need to encourage all of them to meet a certain standard."

Rogers is the newly-elected chair of the Florida Council of Community Association Managers. The council acts as an advisory panel to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. But is has no real clout or authority to initiate enforcement action. That is something Rogers would like to see changed.

"Even if it's as individuals, move us into being a board so that we have more oversight of managers."

Vaccaro isn't certain that's the answer.

"The question as to whether or not the council became a board would have any more, would have the ability to regulate the profession any more effectively, that's the big question."

Ultimately, it will be a question the Florida Legislature may face during this year's session if a bill turning the community association managers' council into a board shows up on the legislative calendar.