Courtesy of The Coastal Breeze News
Published June 7, 2019
By Steve “Stef” Stefanides
Probably nowhere else in the nation are residential
condominiums more prevalent than they are in the State of Florida. In a
residential condominium you own your own unit, but the building, grounds and
amenities are jointly owned by the Association. All of the land is jointly
owned in common by all the homeowners.
The Florida Condo Act (Chapter 718 of the Florida State Statutes) provides
the guidelines and controls for regulating the operation of all Condominium
Associations throughout Florida and the duties and responsibilities
associated with those elected members of their boards of directors. Those
regulations cover everything from noticing of meetings, dealing with changes
to the common elements, election procedures and how assessment of fees will
be divided amongst residents.
The act itself is an all-encompassing document and over the last several
years more pressure has been brought to bear on the legislature to continue
to tighten those regulations and add increases in the penalties upon
directors and associations who do not follow the guidelines. Until new laws
were passed, a condo director who used his position for financial gain,
unlawful or unethical activities could only be pursued in civil court,
therefore not providing a very practical safeguard.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) is the state
agency that oversees the provisions of Chapter 718. The Division of
Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes, which is part of the DBPR is the
organization that carries out that oversight and provides owners with a
process to bring forward a complaint against a director, officer or manager.
There are now criminal penalties for any officer, director or manager for
forging a ballot envelope or voting certificate used in an election. Refusal
to allow inspection or copying of official records in regard to such a crime
is also punishable, as well as numerous other violations which formerly had
no serious repercussions associated with them.
Larger condo associations have millions of dollars in reserves and operating
funds which they are responsible for, all of that money belonging to the
owners within their respective associations. The careful stewardship of
those funds is one of the main responsibilities of the elected board members
and their officers.
The DBPR also handles all licensing requirements for professionals involved
with everything from the sale of alcohol and tobacco products to yacht sales
and setting the standards for those licenses.