to weigh tougher laws to govern condo associations
Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
January 15, 2008
committee of legislators will hold five hearings throughout the state in
the next two months to determine if Florida needs tougher laws to prevent
condo, co-op and homeowner associations from stealing owners' money.
House Speaker Marco Rubio on Monday announced the creation of the
seven-member Select Committee on Condominium & Homeowner Association
Governance. He appointed Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, who is making a
career of fighting for the rights of unit owners, as chairman with six
other state representatives including Franklin Sands, D-Weston, and Joseph
Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach.
Rubio gave the committee subpoena power to force reluctant board members,
accountants, lawyers and managers to testify and provide records that they
have refused to give to unit owners who have the right to see them. All
testimony and documents will be public.
In his letter creating the committee, Rubio said he wants it to examine
"accounting, budgeting, audits, theft by officers and directors,
elections and access to records." He also wants the committee to
consider "state regulation of condominiums and cooperatives by the
Department of Business & Professional Regulation."
The committee will meet in Sunrise, Miami Beach, Orlando, Tampa and
Tallahassee and must issue its report and recommendations by March 3, the
day before the start of the Legislature's annual 60-day law-writing
session. Dates for the hearings should be announced later this week.
Three cases of alleged theft involving south Florida condos last year led
to Rubio's decision to create the committee.
In Hallandale Beach, police arrested four people in the theft of $1.4
million. In that case, the condo association's former president has
pleaded no contest to fraud. Cases against a former manager, maintenance
supervisor and plumbing contractor are pending.
In another case, prosecutors have charged the former president and
treasurer of a Davie condo association with 11 counts in connection with
the theft of more than $250,000 in owners' money. In Hollywood, a former
condo association treasurer is facing charges stemming from the theft of
$13,000 of association funds.
Trials should be held later this year.
This will be the third legislatively created committee since 1990 to hold
hearings and recommend laws to rein in the power of associations. It is
the first to have subpoena power and the first to include homeowner
associations and co-ops.
By including condos, co-ops and homeowner association, the committee could
enact protections for an estimated 50 percent of those living in Broward,
Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.
The 2003 committee, which Robaina also chaired, heard what he called
"horror stories" from hundreds of condo residents. The new
committee will primarily deal with individual owners who suspect criminal
activity by their boards. By dealing with individual complaints, he said,
the committee will see problems and determine what laws are needed.