Recent arrests highlight avenues for complaint

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Joe Kollin

Published May 30, 2007


The recent arrests of four suspects in an alleged kickback scheme at the Parker Plaza condo in Hallandale Beach have many owners in condos and homeowner associations questioning their boards' actions.

Announcement of the investigation was accompanied by news that 11 Miami-Dade County police agencies participated in a pilot program to teach detectives not to brush off condo complaints. The agencies came up with a Condo Crimes Screening Checklist to help you with your complaint. See it at

Police have traditionally assumed condo complaints are violations of state condo law, which is enforced by the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation's Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums & Mobile Homes. Or, they thought the complaints were violations of condo documents, enforceable by the courts, or that they were disputes between angry residents, which they often are.

Investigating financial crimes takes considerable time and resources because they can be complex. As state condo ombudsman Danille R. Carroll said last week, there isn't enough money in the budget of any police department to investigate all complaints.

Here is what to do if you suspect a problem:

Check your association's financial records to find the information required to indicate a crime. Remember, state condo law requires that associations let owners examine their financial records and contracts. If the association refuses, contact the condo division at: 954-202-3982; 800-226-9101; or go to its Web site at

If you find evidence, go to your police department. Remember, police are interested only in violations of criminal law, not state condo law, violations of your association's documents or spats between owners.

If you turn up evidence of a crime, police can use it as a basis for digging for further evidence so they can take the case to your county's state attorney for prosecution.

If you find a violation of state condo law -- not criminal law -- the state land sales and condo division will investigate. If regulators find a violation, they can impose civil penalties on your association.

If the problem is a violation of your association's documents, you'll have to hire an attorney and go to court so a judge can order the board to enforce the rules. Otherwise, you can recall the board and elect directors who won't violate the documents.

It's different if you are in a homeowner association. Although your problems can be identical to those of condos, the Legislature regularly refuses to regulate them or provide an ombudsman for owners. The only way to enforce the state homeowner law is to file suit against your association. But if you find evidence of a crime, it still should be reported to police.

Q. Where can I go with my complaint? Where can I or get more information?

A. Here are some contacts:

State condo ombudsman: ; 954-202-3234; 850-922-7671 (not toll free); . The ombudsman's office answers questions for unit owners, tries to mediate disputes between owners and boards, monitors elections and educates owners.

Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums & Mobile Homes: 954-202-3982; 800-226-9101; . The division enforces state condo law.

State condo law: 

State homeowner association law: 

Cyber Citizens for Justice, a nonprofit representing Florida condo and homeowner association unit owners: .

Community Associations Leadership Lobby, an organization that represents boards and those who manage and advise associations: .