Condo insurance law one of your most asked-about topics

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Daniel Vasquez

Published January 28, 2009

 

With so much going on in the world of condominium and homeowner associations, I've put together some news you should know about your most asked-about topics.

Is the Legislature going to repeal the law requiring condo owners to provide proof of hazard and liability insurance?

It looks that way, but there are no guarantees.

 

Right now the law states associations shall require each owner to provide evidence of a currently effective policy upon request, but not more than once per year. If a unit owner fails to acquire the insurance or provide proof within 30 days after delivery of a written request from the association, it may purchase a policy on behalf of an owner. That money may then be collected from the owner, like an assessment.

Bills to repeal those requirements have been filed by Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort LauderdaleDennis Jones, R-Seminole. Bogdanoff admits she is not sure that is what ultimately should be done. "There seems to be a lot of push back from unit owners about mandatory insurance," she said. "I have real concerns about a complete repeal, but it's important to stir the debate and start the conversation."

In the meantime, she says, keep in mind the law does not require associations to enforce this law. But she knows some attorneys are advising associations to act or face possible liability lawsuits.

Her suggested compromise: Pass a law that allows unit owners to vote on whether to require the insurance and make sure those communities that vote no cannot be held liable. "And if you have 100 units and 99 owners vote yes, the one unit owner should not be able to compromise the rest."

Bogdanoff also says she believes it is likely Florida legislators will repeal the requirement to name an association as an additional insured entity.

What do you think should be done?


Do I really have to give my association a key to my condo?

It's not completely clear. Florida statutes spell out that associations have an "irrevocable right of access" to units during reasonable hours for the maintenance, repair and replacement of any common elements, or, the portion of a unit that the declaration says will be maintained by the association.

"It would be reasonable for an association to ask for a key," said Jean Winters, a Palm Beach County attorney who represents unit owners and associations. "However, the law is not clear that an association can require a unit owner to provide a key. The statute provides the right of access but does not specify the manner of access."

She also cautions the statute should not be interpreted to say associations can access your condo on a whim or otherwise abuse your right to privacy.

In other words, if water or smoke is pouring out of your unit and you're not home, the association would certainly be right to enter in order to protect common property. But an association should not try to extend the law to allow neighbors to enter your unit to make sure you keep it nice and tidy.

If you believe your association is abusing its right of access, Winters suggested hiring an attorney, calling the state Office of the Condominium Ombudsman or filing a complaint with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees condos. "Or do all of the above," Winters said.

How can I make sure legislators hear my concerns?

Look for public events aimed at doing just that. A number of groups pro-association and pro-unit owner are hosting such events.

A town hall meeting for those in homeowner and condo association communities is scheduled for Saturday in Boca Raton. It will run from 1 to 5 p.m. at Florida Atlantic University's Live Oak Pavilion (Grand Palm Room), 777 Glades Road. For information, go to www.ccfj.net. Panel members scheduled to attend include state Reps. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, Franklin Sands, D-Weston, and Priscilla Taylor, D-West Palm Beach.


Daniel Vasquez can be reached at:

[email protected] or at 954-356-4558 (Broward) or 561-243-6686 (Palm Beach County). His condo column runs every Wednesday in the Local section and at www.sunsentinel.com/condos. You also can read his consumer column every Monday in Your Money and at www.sunsentinel.com/vasquez 

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