At a time when a significant number of Floridians are still struggling to make ends meet, millions of Florida homeowners could be faced with the threat of yet another forced increase in their cost of living.
At issue is what some attorneys in Florida want to call the “unlicensed practice of law” by community association managers, who work for resident-run community associations and help manage their day-to-day operations and administration.
These attorneys are exploiting a process historically applied to guide the legal profession and its practices to instead substantially harm homeowners. And they are doing this so only they — the attorneys — will be allowed to provide these services, at a dramatically higher cost.
An “advisory opinion” to the Florida Supreme Court, if granted, would effectively criminalize services that have been provided by community association managers to homeowners for the last 30 years.
So why is the Florida Bar trying to do this? Some have said it’s to protect the public, saying they have heard complaints about community association managers practicing law without a license. But community association managers to date have had no complaints related to the unlicensed practice of law, according to three public record requests made to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Further, community association managers, who are licensed and highly regulated by the state, provide only nonlegal services to associations at a fraction of the cost that would be charged by attorneys.
If “consumer protection” is not the reason this is being pursued, then what is the reason? We’re left to conclude one of two things: Either it is a solution in search of a problem, or it is an effort to create more work and more profit for attorneys at the expense of homeowners. Either way, this process is misguided and needs to have the input of all stakeholders, not just the ones who stand to make money from it.
If this effort is successful, homeowners and their associations will need to use attorneys for nearly every administrative task. But forcing homeowner associations to use high-priced attorneys to perform routine tasks that have been provided by community association managers at a fraction of the cost will put an extra load on already burdened homeowners and their associations.
Additionally, nearly 16,000 Floridians who had been providing these services will be put out of work at a critical time of recovery for Florida’s economy.
If the Florida Bar successfully achieves its quest to line lawyers’ pockets by putting people out of work and increasing costs to homeowners, what business will they target next?
On Sept. 20, the Bar will convene a meeting of its Unlicensed Practice of Law Committee to consider whether services that community association managers have been providing to their associations should be provided only by attorneys.
If the Bar moves forward with these proceedings unquestioned, it will be clear to the public that the legal profession can effectively create public policy through unaccountable, closed-door proceedings.
And this all will be done with no input from the ones who are supposed to make these decisions: the governor and the Legislature.
We should not allow attorneys to be the fourth branch of Florida’s government.
This article is provided by Home Encounter.