Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Published May 30, 2007
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
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 www.state.fl.us/dbpr/lsc/condominiums/index.shtml.
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.
Where can I go with my complaint? Where can I or get more information?
A. Here are some contacts:
State condo ombudsman: firstname.lastname@example.org
850-922-7671 (not toll free); www.myflorida.com/condos
. 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; www.state.fl.us/dbpr/lsc/condominiums/index.shtml
The division enforces state condo law.
State condo law: www.flsenate.gov/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=Ch0718/ch0718.htm
State homeowner association law: www.flsenate.gov/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=Ch0720/ch0720.htm
Cyber Citizens for Justice, a nonprofit representing Florida condo and
homeowner association unit owners: www.ccfj.net
Community Associations Leadership Lobby, an organization that represents
boards and those who manage and advise associations: www.callbp.com