report calls for greater condo oversight
Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
March 20, 2008
newly released, bipartisan legislative report could lead to extensive
changes in state laws protecting the millions of owners in Florida condo
and homeowner association communities.
Recommendations from the House Select Commission on Condominium &
Homeowner Association Governance range from requiring local police
departments to investigate cases alleging fraud by directors to mandatory
education for all condo directors.
Other suggestions include regulating homeowner associations for the first
time and providing more money for the Department of Business &
Professional Regulation and the state condo ombudsman so they can provide
Also, the commission would forbid associations with revenues of more than
$100,000 from waiving outside review of their books for more than two
years and would require the state to subpoena books and records of
associations that fail to let two separate owners see them on two separate
The nine-member committee wrote its report after hearing "horror
stories" from unit owners in five cities between January and early
this month. Its chairman, Rep. Julio Robaina, R- Miami, said lawmakers
could turn the recommendations into law during the current legislative
session that ends in May.
"It looks good. There's a real will from the leadership in the
Florida House to make this happen," Robaina said.
House leaders may combine the committee recommendations with several condo
and homeowner association bills that have been filed, he said.
Consolidating them into a single measure, a sign lawmakers look favorably
on the measures, could come within a week, Robaina said.
Another reason for his optimism: The influential law firms and other
professional groups that for years have been saying no changes are needed
don't seem to be offering their usual stiff resistance.
Attorney Donna Berger once opposed nearly all attempts to change the law
as executive director of the Community Association Leadership Lobby, the
lobbying group for Becker & Poliakoff, the state's largest community
association law firm. She is now doing the same for the Community Advocacy
Network, the lobbying arm of the Katzman & Korr firm.
"All in all, I think it's a decent report," she said.
"There are some really helpful suggestions."
Berger said she is "not opposed" to the recommendation to
regulate homeowner associations. That proposal was regularly killed by
opposition from representatives of boards who don't want the state looking
over their shoulders.
Jan Bergemann, president of the Deland-based Cyber Citizens for Justice,
has been pushing for years for state regulation of homeowner associations
to help protect homeowners from their boards.
"A regulatory agency for homeowners association with strong
enforcement powers is needed more than ever," Bergemann said.
"With our bad economy, the many foreclosures and unpaid assessments
by financially troubled homeowners will cause havoc in our associations if
our Legislature fails to come up with fast solutions to stop financial
mismanagement, uncontrolled spending and even clear embezzlement in our
[condo and homeowner] associations."
Ed Baron, a retired architectural and engineering consultant who owns a
condo in Palm Chase Lakes in Boynton Beach, disagrees with some of the
He said mandatory director training won't change anything because the
people who serve aren't always cut out to be "responsible for budgets
exceeding a million dollars."
Robaina said three cases pending in Broward courts show the need to train
police to recognize condo fraud.
In a Hallandale Beach case, four people were arrested, including a condo
president who has pleaded guilty, in the theft of $1.4 million in unit
owners' money. In another case, the former president and treasurer of a
Davie condo is awaiting trial on charges of taking $759,654 from owners.
And the former treasurer of a Hollywood condo is charged with receiving
more than $13,000 in health plan coverage.