Condo Owners are asking:
Who is enforcing the new Condo Law?

Article Courtesy of The Nuevo Herald

By Brenda Medina  

Published July 18, 2017


A few days after the new Florida condominium law came into effect, Martin Gonzalez went to the Miami-Dade County police to file a complaint about alleged fraud in his condominium.

The answer angered him. According to Gonzalez, they told him that they could not help him and that he went to the police department of his city, Miami Beach.

But the answer that, according to Gonzalez, received by the Miami Beach police was even more frustrating: "They told me which new law they did not know about a new law."

For years, police departments have refused to receive or investigate allegations of fraud in condominium associations, because state laws regulating this type of housing did not include references to criminal offenses and punishments.

Now, after extensive reform to Chapter 718 of the Florida Constitution, passed during the most recent legislative session in Tallahassee, the law DOES include criminal penalties for some actions by the Condo Associations. But the reform came into effect on July 1, and several police departments told the Nuevo Herald that they are barely inquiring and preparing their police personnel for the implementation of the new law.

"We have begun working with the Miami-Dade State Attorney and in the coming weeks we will meet with them and our agents from the Economic Crimes Unit to discuss best practices to investigate these crimes," said agent Ernesto Friday Rodriguez, spokesman for the Miami Beach Police.

"As with any new law, we adapt and see the best way to handle complaints as a police department," Rodriguez said, adding that he did not know specific details about Martín González's complaint.

Since March 2016, the Nuevo Herald and Univisión 23 have published the Nightmare Condos investigative series, which revealed cases of electoral fraud in condominium association meetings, document forgery and fraudulent tenders. The series highlighted the lack of action and the limitations of the authorities on the complaints of owners, both the police and the state agency for Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).

Gonzalez, of the Miami Beach condominium, said they do not understand why the authorities are not ready to implement the law immediately.

"When it was said that walking without a seat belt was illegal, the next day the patrol cars were on the road putting tickets to people who were walking without the belt," Gonzalez said. "So why do we have to wait?"

Authorities said implementing condo laws and conducting investigations is not as "black and white" as putting a fine for not wearing a seat belt. Agents need to be educated and trained, and residents understand the difference between civil and criminal matters. The latter are those that the police can investigate, while civil complaints must be handled by the DBPR.