diplomacy, tact and balance are needed between condominium owners and the
associations that govern them. Ditto for homeowners and their homeowners
Fortunately, a bill awaiting Gov. Jeb Bush's signature offers some steps to
ameliorate the Hatfields-and-McCoys syndrome that too often befalls condo
and homeowners association politics. The bill, championed by Rep. Julio
Robaina, R-Miami, isn't perfect, but it does offer some solutions to avoid
For condo communities, the legislation:
Establishes an ombudsman appointed by the governor to help improve
association governance and to promote best practices across the state.
Restricts the ability of boards to arbitrarily levy assessments or change
rules without giving written notice two weeks in advance.
Requires sellers to provide buyers with question-and-answer sheets on the
The measure also would apply new rules to HOAs, which have prompted their
share of disputes in recent years. For HOAs, the bill:
Lets homeowners fly the American flag on certain days, and provides size
guidelines for the display.
Requires Florida's Department of Business & Professional Regulation to
offer mediation and arbitration services to settle disputes.
Sets minimum financial reporting standards for HOAs.
The condo/HOA rules were among the most contested pieces of legislation
during the session in Tallahassee, which ended April 30.
Robaina said he had to jettison some of his original ideas to make sure he
got some reforms through the Legislature. Those initial proposals included
giving the ombudsman the power to remove HOA or condo board directors and
measures making it harder for board attorneys to start foreclosure
He was right to back off some of the more sweeping changes. Those provisions
would have severely hampered the ability of condo and homeowners boards to
do their job, to enforce rules and govern communities.
Robaina and advocates for greater restrictions on condo and homeowner boards
promise to go back to Tallahassee for more changes. Additional reforms might
be necessary, but it's better to wait and see how the proposed changes from
the 2004 session work out.
What's on the table is good enough for now. Gov. Bush should sign this bill.