Some Solutions In New Bill
Editorial Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

Published: June 2, 2004


More diplomacy, tact and balance are needed between condominium owners and the associations that govern them. Ditto for homeowners and their homeowners associations.

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 friction.

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 association.

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 proceedings.

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.