Department of Business and Professional Regulation

An Opinion By Jan Bergemann

Published July 18, 2005


From Legislators to OPPAGA -- and to condo owners -- the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation is definitely the most criticized government agency in our state. For everybody, who just cares to look, it is pretty obvious that this department is not doing what it is supposed to do -- protect the consumer against abuses and punish violators of the Florida statutes. No doubt, as a watchdog for consumer protection it is useless. 


Condo owners are feeling betrayed and treated as third-class citizens when dealing with this department. Not only that it seems to take forever before DBPR acknowledges the receipt of a formal complaint -- or a mediation or arbitration request! And after the acknowledgement??? Mostly nothing but waiting!

Even the specialized attorneys must have given up on this department in regards to mediation and arbitration. Law firms like Katzman & Korr, fresh out of Federal Court after dealing with the class action lawsuit for violation of the FDCPA, seem not to be willing to wait for any action from this department. 


Florida's legislature enacted FS 720.311 in 2004, but these lawyers just seem to ignore it! They now file with DBPR and court at the same time, obviously hoping to recover twice the legal fees? The first such case is pending in court in Broward County.

Many owners feel that this is the sad truth!




That was definitely not the legislative intent. The staff analysis for the 2004 bill HB 1987/SB 2984 definitely speaks a very different language.


Condo boards and their law firms are in general ignoring all the warning letters they might receive from the Division. Who cares? Everybody knows that these warnings are not worth the paper they are written on. Association boards are no strangers to receiving letters from the DBPR telling them that they violated nearly every condo statute in the book. But please, don't ever do it again?


But the attorney firms know where to turn to when they need help: 

See the latest example when the law firm of Hyman, Kaplan, Ganguzza, Spector & Mars, P.A. ran into problems with the Office of the Condo ombudsman about election misconduct in the Heron at the Hammocks Condominium Association in Miami.  Two attempts to conduct a fair election failed due to clear violations of the Florida statutes. And instead of trying to resolve the issues and find a way to finally conduct fair elections, attorney Gary Mars decided to rather turn to the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes for help. And Susan Cutchins, Deputy Secretary of Business Regulation, was in a hurry to accommodate him, relying on an outdated election brochure to come up with a dubious opinion.


Since it normally takes forever to get any responses from the DBPR there can be only two reasons for this fast response. It helps to have connections? The senior partner and founder of the law firm of Hyman, Kaplan, Ganguzza, Spector & Mars, P.A., Michael Hyman is the brother of Harold Hyman, Regional Manager, Bureau of Compliance of the Division in Margate. 


Or you just have to be an attorney trying to circumvent directions given by the Condo Ombudsman?


I guess that leaves condo owners, normally used to waiting weeks to even have their letters acknowledged, with two options to get a faster response time:
Pass the BAR exam, can't be too difficult considering some of the letters I read written by attorneys, or have your brother apply for a job with the Division. 


But the most feasible option to serve the welfare of Florida's condo owners would be that Governor Jeb Bush finally realizes that the Division needs some serious re-organizing and some desperately needed personnel changes. Under his watch the DBPR turned from bad to worse, much to the detriment of Florida's condo owners.


Florida's condo owners have the right to expect people running the agency who are capable -- and willing -- to do the job they are supposed to do: 

Protect the rights and welfare of Florida's citizens!