Wednesday, April 21, 2010

They will never give up!

Look at what I have read today:

The amount of cynicism is infinite, but we are getting used to it.

So, these insurance companies are so, but so worried that Citizens, (the state sponsored Property Insurance company which insures a large proportion of our homes against hurricane risks), could get in trouble. Actually Citizens is their competition and they are doing fine.

Listen to this: “Floridians would be faced with even higher assessments from Citizens. We simply can’t afford to let that happen,” said Jay Newman, chairman of Davie-based Sawgrass Mutual Insurance Co.

Have these insurance companies suddenly become our new public advocates?

What they can't or do not want to afford is losing the business of Floridian homeowners who would be caught under their grip without remedy if these bill are ever passed.

These insurance companies have been trying to raise their rates for a long time. Even though we haven't had a major hurricane in five years. Not only so, but they now also want to limit the consumers' claims, by:

"reining in" the PUBLIC ADJUSTERS (because they are too friendly to the consumer - you're right: collect more and pay less is good for business)

And last but not least, we are not dupe because:

" Both bills also call for insurance rate hikes, an issue downplayed by the group."

This is in reality the bottom line and all what really matters. These are powerful corporations and their ultimate goal is to make money at any cost and as much as possible.

We all understand that. So don't try to fool us into all this nonsense. They want to make more money, that's all.

This is what I read in the news today:

A Tallahassee-based organization that represents Florida insurers is urging state lawmakers to pass legislation they claim will shore up the property insurance market.

Without passage, the Property Insurers CEOs Group claims that Floridians will end up “saddled with billions of dollars of debt, should a major storm strike the state.”

The group, which comprises CEOs representing 21 insurance companies statewide, held a news conference Wednesday morning to warn that, with just two weeks left before the end of the legislative session, systemwide changes are desperately needed before hurricane season begins June 1.

The group is urging passage of Senate Bill 2044 and House Bill 447, which, among other things, impose a three-year limit on hurricane claims, require that insurance payments be used to repair homes damage by a hurricane or sinkhole, eliminate frivolous sinkhole insurance claims, address fraud and strengthen laws to guarantee the solvency of insurance companies.

Both bills also call for insurance rate hikes, an issue downplayed by the group. Instead, they noted that, if insurers can’t attract enough capital, more Floridians would be dumped into Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-run property insurer of last resort.

“Floridians would be faced with even higher assessments from Citizens. We simply can’t afford to let that happen,” said Jay Newman, chairman of Davie-based Sawgrass Mutual Insurance Co.

Members said that even though Florida has not had a major hurricane in several years many private property insurers are not building the capital reserves that would be needed should a big storm, or a series of storms, hit the Sunshine State. “If a catastrophic storm strikes the state, it will be left to residents to pick up the difference in the form of assessments added to their insurance premiums,” the group claims.

The group said that, according to figures from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, 52 state domestic property insurers and the Florida subsidiaries of three national carriers had underwriting losses of $750 million last year, despite the fact that there were no hurricanes.

The group also is calling for public adjusters to be reined in.

“There are many good public adjusters and they serve the public well in terms of language barriers, we recognize and respect that. What we don’t respect is fraud, invented claims,” said Bob Ritchie, CEO of Tampa-based American Integrity.

David Beasley, president-elect of the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, said his organization has been working on compromises and agreed language to the legislation that will benefit not only consumers, but also the insurance industry.

“A lot of times, we are painted with a broad brush that doesn’t reflect the best efforts,” he said. “A lot of public adjusters are there to support consumers first. Sometimes, that comes in opposition to carriers.”

Beasley said that, while there are people in any business who “take shortcuts,” his organization has always supported initiatives including tougher licensing and education standards.

Source: South Florida Business Journal – April 21st, 2010

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.

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where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos, Sunny Isles Condos

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Compassionate Legislators at work?

In our best interests, God forbid.

I just read some incredible news. To "get the real estate back on track" this is what they had come up with.

For the Florida Bankers Association it's just business.

As it is to charge consumers 38.9 billion dollars in overdraft fees in 2009 (approximate total charged in the US).

Or to gamble our savings in "derivatives" speculation that drives the whole country to the brink of ruin.

Here is what I read today. And I hope it 's just a false alarm.

Foreclosure bill rouses rally

From – April 20, 2010 – Lawyers and consumer advocates plan a rally in Tallahassee on Wednesday to protest a controversial bill that would speed up foreclosures in Florida.

The legislative bill would allow lenders to foreclose on homeowners without approval from a judge in as little as 90 days.

It appears to have stalled, but the group said it wants to send a message to legislators. “Do not take away valuable consumer protections,” the lawyers say in a written announcement. “We want to work together to solve the current crisis.” One of the lawyers organizing the event is Matthew Weidner of St. Petersburg. He says hundreds, possibly thousands, will attend.

“People feel insecure about their futures and finances,” Weidner said. “This is an issue that touches everyone.” House Bill 1523 would allow lenders to skip legal proceedings unless the borrower requests the foreclosure go through the courts. Florida law requires a lender to file a foreclosure lawsuit and have the foreclosure granted by a judge. There are nearly 500,000 pending foreclosure cases in Florida, among the worst in the nation. Because of the backlog, foreclosures can take months or years. Critics say the bill significantly shortens the foreclosure process, making it more difficult for troubled borrowers to save their houses. They say the bill would not help the backlog of foreclosures because it applies only to new cases.

Supporters say it would help judges and be good for neighbors weary of long-vacant houses in their community. There are 30 states that have a nonjudicial foreclosure process, allowing some lenders to foreclose on properties in as little as a month. Anthony DiMarco, executive vice president for governmental affairs for the Florida Bankers Association, said lenders hope the bill will pass. “We’re disappointed that it may not pass this session,” DiMarco said. “But we understand that we’re making a major change to the law. What we’re proposing won’t solve everything, but we can’t get the real estate market back on track until we deal with these foreclosures.”

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
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where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos, Sunny Isles Condos,

Saturday, April 17, 2010

These guys ain't getting my vote! Traffic Cameras are a scam

That's what the experts say.

And they are right.

A Judge against them a few weeks ago in Aventura. However many cities haven't moved to take them out.

Their hope is that they will finally overcome this judge's opinion. The ruling was only the state could issue traffic violation tickets of this kind.

Oh yea? said the State. Just give us our cut and the cameras will stay.

What a shame! Let's put cameras in our homes, in our schools, in our theaters, in our parks. We'll then supervise everybody and prevent all infractions. A camera in my bedroom? Why not?
A camera in the bar to monitor how many shots you've had tonight? Wonderful.

Is this going to be the wonderful world our elected officers promised us?

I hope not. I will monitor every one of my city's commissioners. And whoever voted yes to these cameras is not getting my vote next time.

This is what I read a couple of days ago. It will give my readers an idea about how greed and bureaucracy unleashed can work.

Will Florida take a cut? Red-light cameras make millions -- but may be in peril

In the Florida House and Senate, one bill would kill red-light cameras, while two would allow them but cut the state in on the fines. Which option do you prefer? Kill red-light cameras. They're unfair and a moneymaker for areas that install them. Let the state take a cut of fines. Cameras make money off scofflaws -- what's wrong with that? Neither. Cameras have their benefits, but the state doesn't deserve any of the fines.

Cameras that catch motorists running red lights are generating millions of dollars for cities such as Orlando and Apopka, but the future of the programs is uncertain - thanks to the Florida Legislature. Three bills are working their way through the House and Senate: One would kill the cameras, while two others would allow them to continue but cut the state in on the action. "I would suggest to you that anyone who says they know what is going to happen is a liar," said Scott Dudley, a lobbyist for the Florida League of Cities.

More than 100 cities, including at least 30 in Florida, and 20 states allow red-light cameras. More than 30 countries have approved them, too, as far back as the 1970s. Orange County and St. Petersburg intend to install them but are waiting to see what the Legislature decides.

Supporters say the cameras cut down on accidents because motorists learn to slow and stop at the intersections, which are marked with signs. Opponents dismiss them as money generators that actually make intersections more dangerous because people stop unexpectedly to avoid a ticket, causing followers to hit them from behind. There are no definitive studies backing up either side.

Lawmakers have discussed installing cameras on state roads for years but have not passed a law to enable them, in part because they were wary of the claim that the arrangements are simply a government moneymaker, not a true safety measure. But this time could be different because lawmakers once again are pressed to balance the budget and are running out of financial options. That has triggered some legislators, such as Republicans Thad Altman in the Senate and Ron Reagan in the House, to consider funneling potential fines from red-light cameras into the general fund. Rep. Ron Schenck, R-Spring Hill, has a bill that would abolish the use of red-light cameras in the state.

Previous legislative discussions had centered on taking ticket revenue and using it largely for public safety or to underwrite emergency-room operations. State law overrules local regulations, so whatever Tallahassee decides must followed by the cities or counties. Officials in Orlando and Apopka want their programs to continue, but they have different agendas. Orlando, which has collected more than $3.3 million in fines since operating the first camera in the fall of 2008, uses the money to pay the private operator of the system and to expand to more intersections. Initially, the city had five; now 12 intersections are monitored by cameras. The city keeps the money in a separate account.

"We're not using it for police or fire or the general fund," said Kathy Russell, the city's lobbyist. Apopka also places its money in a separate account but intends to use it to for the city's daily operations, once the Legislature decides what it will do, said Apopka police Chief Chuck Vavrek. "It should help to offset [expenses] and help the citizens," Vavrek said.

Vavrek is not a fan of Florida getting into the business - because the two of the bills being considered would take money from the city operations and funnel it to the state. "Here we go putting money to Tallahassee when it doesn't help [Apopka]," he said. Orlando thinks it can break even on the cameras even if the state takes some of the money. The city just wants a decision. "Come on, Legislature," Russell said. "Get it done."

Since starting its program in mid-2007, Apopka has brought in more than $1.4 million in fines from two intersections, both of which cross U.S. Highway 441, the main drag through downtown Apopka. Unlike Orlando, Apopka also issues a ticket for vehicles that do not come to a complete stop before making a right turn on a red light. Vavrek said he could not break out how many citations are issued for turning right versus going straight through an intersection.

Both Orlando and Apopka charge $125 a ticket. The state could charge $150 or more. Critics maintain the cameras do little other than run up fines on unsuspecting motorists.

"Cameras are a total fraud," said Greg Mauz, a Texas consultant who works with the Best Highway Safety Practices Institute, a nonprofit founded in Portland, Ore., that tracks motoring. He estimates that cities across the country are bringing in $18 million a day through red-light cameras.

John Large, a University of South Florida professor who has extensively studied the setups, said if safety is the real concern, cities would simply lengthen the amount of time the yellow light is on by at least one second. He maintains the vast majority of red-light-camera tickets are issued to people who entered the intersection less than a second after the light changed. He also recommends having all the lights at an intersection stay on red for a second to allow traffic to pass through.

Follow those two suggestions, he said, and "I guarantee you these camera companies will disappear because they will not make enough money."

From the Orlando Sentinel – April 10, 2019

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
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where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos, Sunny Isles Condos,

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Technicalities, Lawyers, Right and Wrong

I tend to be more sympathetic to real estate buyers than to developers.

However, this ruling bothers me. A buyer of a property in the pre-construction phase tries to get off the deal once the market has not met his profit expectations. Much alike a speculator in the stock market could try to invalidate a transaction a month after he has given an order to buy and the market didn't go his way.

Despite many developers' abuses and non-compliance of promises made when enticing a buyer to put his money in a real estate project, I cannot side with the buyer/investor in this case. Respectfully dissenting, I believe that the non-compliance of a detail that did not negatively affect a party, should not be a reason to favor the other party. But I am not a lawyer and this is just my opinion.

Read on: (from Daily Business Review - April 15, 2010 )

Ruling could open door for buyers to recoup deposits

Miami attorney Alexander Lian may have come up with an innovative strategy to help people recover pre-construction deposits they gave condo developers during the housing boom.

Lawsuits have blossomed since the real estate market collapsed in 2007 as would-be condo buyers go after developers to recover their deposits — often as much as 20 percent of the purchase price. The results of those suits have been mixed, with some rulings favoring developers and others favoring buyers. Lian argued that developer Swire Pacific Holdings and title company Lawyers Title Insurance failed to create two separate escrow accounts when his client deposited $232,000, or 20 percent of the $1.16 million purchase price, in 2004 to reserve a unit at the then-proposed Asia on Brickell Key.

Lian, with Lian & Associates in Miami, cited Florida Statute 718.202, which says a developer must set up a pair of escrow accounts if the deposit exceeds 10 percent of the purchase price. If that doesn’t happen, the buyer has the right to rescind the contract and recover the deposit. U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga agreed with Lian in a 45-page opinion issued March 30.


When developers receive a 20 percent deposit, they are to put half of the money into a protected account and the other half into an account the developer can access to pay for construction, she said in her ruling. Swire failed to split Double AA International Investment Group’s deposit between two accounts, Lian said. In early 2009, Double AA demanded that the contract be canceled. Swire and the title company ignored the request, Lian said. Altonaga rejected the Swire and Lawyers Title defense that the “violation was a technical one that should excuse them from liability,” according to the judge’s ruling.

The Ruling - Summary judgment

Swire and the title company argued that it is common practice for escrow agents to create one account and “then use bookkeeping entries to say what money belongs where,” Lian said. Gary Saul, a Greenberg Traurig lawyer in Miami who represented Swire, said his client declined to comment. Lawyers Title declined to comment, said Fort Lauderdale lawyer Philip Kantor, who represented the company. Kantor is with Quintairos PrietoWood & Boyer.


This strategy “is very powerful,” Lian said. “It allows the buyer to rescind the entire contract and get all the money back plus interest.“ No money was missing from the escrow account, according to the lawsuit. Swire and Lawyers Title have until the end of the month to turn over $232,000 to Double AA or to appeal the ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit. Since the ruling, lawyers specializing in deposit recovery have rushed to amend their pending lawsuits to add this claim, said Fort Lauderdale attorney Joseph Altschul. He has already amended more than 10 cases. Altonaga’s ruling applies only to cases where the buyers sued to cancel the purchase contract before backing out of the deal and being declared in default by the developer, Altschul said.


If Altonaga’s ruling is appealed and upheld, numerous developers will have to return millions of dollars in deposits, even after they had already spent some of the money for construction of their buildings. Two sources who declined to be identified said Swire plans to appeal the ruling. Some experts predict the company will be successful. “I feel very strongly that it was a misinterpretation of the statute by the court and it will be overturned on appeal,” said Tony DiTocco, a former developer and now a real estate consultant for builders marketing new condos. DiTocco, president of DiTocco Consulting in Fort Lauderdale, interprets the law the same way Swire and Lawyers Title did: One account is sufficient if separate records are maintained. DiTocco is not involved with the case. “There is no purpose to be served” by keeping two accounts, he added. Hollywood attorney Gary Phillips, who represents condo developers including Miami’s Tibor Hollo, said Altonaga was correct in her ruling, but the law doesn’t make sense. “The judge is technically right, and most developers I know do have two escrow accounts,” Phillips said. “But I think it is a shame.”


If Swire and the title company lose the appeal, Altonaga’s ruling will gain the force of law and be a significant boost for buyers seeking to get out of condo deals. For now, however, her 45-page opinion isn’t binding on other judges who may see similar cases, Altschul said. “Right now, it is certainly what we would call persuasive authority but it is not binding authority,” he said. “It is not very often that you find a written opinion that goes through such detailed analysis,” Altschul said of the lengthy ruling. “It will be very difficult for a federal appeals court to overturn her conclusion on the merits.” Altschul, who represents several people seeking to recover condo deposits, is reviewing their developers’ escrow agreements to see if Lian’s strategy can be used. He said many of the agreements he has looked at don’t require two escrow accounts. “But that doesn’t mean that maybe they didn’t do it right,” Altschul said. If Altonaga’s ruling is appealed and upheld, numerous developers will have to return millions of dollars in deposits, even when they had already spent the portion that was allowed to go toward construction of their buildings.

Phillips expects to see a flood of deposit recovery cases tackling this issue. “I am sure will be see a flurry of discovery now requesting documentation on where the escrow monies were held and in what accounts,” he said. “Luckily my clients … all use separate escrow accounts.”

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos, Sunny Isles Condos,