Legislator plans to push for ombudsman of homeowner associations

Legislation to be introduced in March

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Published December 16, 2008
By Patty Pensa

West Delray - State Rep. Julio Robaina told leaders of homeowner associations Monday he wants feedback before crafting legislation to overhaul associations across the state.

Robaina, a Miami Republican, doesn't represent the area, but he is at the forefront of legislative reform for condos and HOAs. While board members typically oppose regulation, the Alliance of Delray Residential Associations praised Robaina's efforts.

Robaina, who is committee chairman of condo and homeowners association governance, said he'll introduce legislation in March on homeowners associations. At a minimum, he will push for an ombudsman to act as a resource and mediator for homeowners. Condominium associations have had an ombudsman since 2004 through legislation Robaina sponsored.

"People are asking in majority numbers that they do want to be regulated," he said. "I have mixed feelings."

Robaina said he isn't comfortable handing over more power to the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees condominium associations. But he said he will promote legislation considering half of Florida's residents will live in association-run communities by 2010.

Barbara Zee, vice president of legislative affairs for the alliance, said she supports an ombudsman because "there's a feeling homeowners have no place to go. There's got to be someone of authority who could sit down with a board."

Zee said she isn't anti-reform. In fact, she worked on a homeowner association bill that Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed earlier this year. For example, some associations do not allow homeowners to speak at board meetings, which a new law could rectify, Zee said.

"Most of the time, the boards are very interested in doing what's best for the association because they live there," she said.

While an ombudsman would help, David Lewin, a board member at Shadywoods in Delray Beach, opposes regulation of homeowner associations. He also doesn't want a fee similar to the $4 per unit owner that condominium owners pay for the ombudsman and other services.

"I'm totally against additional regulation for HOAs," he said. "Are homeowner associations doing a bad job? No."

Robaina said people can send ideas or comments on regulating homeowner associations to him at julio.robaina@myfloridahouse.com