36 condo law changes pushed
Ombudsman cites state fines and privacy issues

Article Courtesy Of The Sun Sentinel

By Joe Kollin

Published March 3, 2007


Dawn McCabe woke up one morning in her apartment near Boca Raton to find a stranger working in her bathroom. So, she supports a state legislative proposal to limit the power of condo associations to enter a resident's home.

Chris Maxfield was told he'd have to provide his Social Security and bank account numbers if he wanted to move into his aunt's Davie condo. So, he supports a proposal to limit the right of boards to seek such personal information.

Florida Condo Ombudsman Danille R. Carroll is recommending those changes and 34 others to Gov. Charlie Crist and legislative leaders. The Legislature begins its annual 60-day session on Tuesday.

On the job since June, Carroll said she based her proposals on concerns condo residents have raised with her staff in Fort Lauderdale and Tallahassee. They include requiring boards to tell owners when the state has fined their association; requiring board members whose associations are fined to participate in a training program; require boards to respond to unit owner inquiries by certified mail; and to let the ombudsman, not a board being recalled, to certify recall elections "to remove the conflicts of interest inherent in the current system."

State Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Hialeah, has agreed to include Carroll's proposals in his list of condo reform measures.

Current law gives associations the "irrevocable right of access to each unit during reasonable hours" to maintain common elements. Many associations require owners to leave keys with the office.

Carroll says the law should require 24 hours' notice in writing before entering a unit except for emergencies. She said entry should be by at least two people, including a board member, "to protect the sanctity of the home and its belongings."

For McCabe, 42, finding a repairman in her Boca Raton bathroom at 7 that morning in early 2002 was the third time someone had entered without notice.

"I was going out of my mind," said McCabe, who has since bought a condo in Plantation but refused to give a key to the association manager.

She said she likes Carroll's proposal because it gives warning and ensures that someone responsible is watching.

Maxfield, 27, agrees with Carroll on the need to prevent associations from requiring certain personal information.

"I think it's a great idea. It's no one's business except financial institutions and the government," he said.

He said his mother recently lost $25,000 when someone stole her account numbers from her computer's hard drive. He calls it wrong for an association, which has no training in maintaining the privacy of records, to seek the kind of information "they don't even ask when you apply for a passport."

Reach the ombudsman's office by e-mail at ombudsman@dbpr.state.fl.us or call 954-202-3234. See her Web site at www.myflorida.com/condos.