YEAR END REPORT
THROUGH DECEMBER 2005
Published February 11, 2006
The Office of the Condominium Ombudsman was created by the 2004 Legislature and codified under Chapter 718.5011 of the Florida Statutes (The Ombudsman Statute). The purpose of the Office is to provide education and assistance to condominium owners, to act as a liaison between the owners and their managers and directors, to resolve complaints, and to facilitate voluntary resolution of disputes. The Office is also mandated to assist, monitor, conduct, and review condominium elections. The Ombudsman is required to make reports and legislative recommendations relative to the Division of Condominiums’ rules, procedures, jurisdiction, personnel, and functions.
principal Office of the Ombudsman is in Tallahassee and located for
administrative purposes within the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums,
and Mobile Homes of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation
(Division). The Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums, and Mobile
Homes Trust Fund finances the functions of the Office.
Office of the Condominium Ombudsman in its first year of operation has
established a means to accomplish all of its delegated duties with its five
In resolving disputes and acting as a liaison the office through its Response-Intervention-Resolution procedure resolves over 75% of the issues, disputes, complaints, and problems that it receives. The Ombudsman’s Office currently receives about 700 complaints and requests weekly. The majority of the complaints were about abuse and mismanagement by the board of directors. About thirty percent (30%) of the complaints related to Officer and Director Abuse and harassment. Thirty percent (30%) were regarding fiscal and general mismanagement of the association.
In providing education and assistance the office offers educational seminars and an informational website. Because of the overwhelming number of requests for the seminars they are now being presented on a weekly basis. The seminars provide instruction regarding condominium basics, management, business operations, and special issues. These topics are also offered to condominium owners by Broward Community College (BCC) under the supervision of the Ombudsman as eight-hour classroom course for a nominal charge. Universities and Community Colleges throughout the State have expressed a desire to start similar programs. The BCC Online Course is currently being finalized and should be available within the next month. The current Ombudsman’s unofficial consumer friendly Website (www.myFLcondo.org) provides solutions to special problem issues, as well as links to statutes, the administrative code, arbitration decisions, case sites and information about current events. A link to an informative site in Spanish is currently being finalized. It also has interactive email capability. The site was provided to the Ombudsman by a volunteer non-profit education group as permitted by Statute (718.5012). The website is currently visited by approximately 100 persons daily. The site was created not only to provide the public with information but also to be an alternative source for education regarding condominium problems, and an attempt to alleviate the large number of calls that currently overwhelm the office. An official State Website at www.myFlorida.com/condos has been created for the Ombudsman which we anticipate will further enhance this process.
Office submits reports and recommendations and quarterly summaries of the
progress and success of its legislative directives.
Ombudsman’s Office is required by Section 718.5012(3) of the Florida Statutes
to make recommendations “appropriate for legislation relative to Division
procedures, rules, jurisdiction, personnel, and functions”. The Ombudsman’s
Office continues to maintain that the Division’s procedures, rules, personnel
and functions are inefficient and ineffective and in dire need of change. There
is an obvious lack of enforcement of violations by the Division. Armed with this
knowledge, many errant associations totally ignore the information and warning
letters from the Division. Unit owners have no faith in the ability of the
Division to curtail association and director misconduct. They feel that the
State is remiss in offering an effective agency and system to prevent personal
abuse from directors and mismanagement of their homesteads. The Office suggests
that the Division personnel be given positive directives to be more aggressive
in enforcement. The Office also
recommends that a committee comprised of persons knowledgeable in condominium
law, knowledgeable about the problems associated with condominium fiscal and
general mismanagement, and knowledgeable about the practical operation of
condominium associations and corporations be established to rewrite the
administrative rules to make them more effective.
providing recommendations he deems appropriate regarding the Division the
Ombudsman has met with serious backlash from the Department of Business and
Professional Regulation (DBPR). The DBPR has stated that because the Office of
The Condominium Ombudsman is “located for administrative purposes within the
Division of Florida Land Sales and Condominiums” it may dictate the policies
and control the procedures of the Ombudsman’s Office. The DBPR has undertaken
a continued and concerted effort to control and curtail the functions and
activities of the Ombudsman and his Office.
The Office of the Condominium Ombudsman has been overwhelmingly successful in assisting condominium associations. Hurricane Wilma and other named storms caused serious damage to condominiums in Florida this year and left many without shelter. Unfortunately, condominium unit owners have been unable to obtain financial assistance because of their unique corporate status. Condominium residents are not considered homeowners and therefore, unable to qualify for State and Federal assistance under agency and other organizational guidelines. The Ombudsman hosted a roundtable meeting to discuss and resolve these problems with FEMA, DRC-State Emergency Recovery Team, the American Red Cross, the Florida Department of Financial Services, the Office of Housing Finance, the County Office of Housing, Legislators and other State and Federal organizations
Roundtable meeting was a tremendous success. The organizations that attended
launched a new plan, which would encompass condominium associations into the
scope of agencies that provide owners with financial assistance. Condominium
associations and individual unit owners may now qualify for assistance from FEMA
or low interest loans from the Small Business Administration and avoid large
The Election Monitoring section of the Office of the Condominium Ombudsman continues to be a very effective method to insure fair and impartial condominium elections. The Office validated Fifty-two Petitions and conducted 43 elections in its first year. There is already that many for the First Quarter of 2006.
monitor statistics show that there has been a tremendous increase in unit owner
participation in elections. Prior to the election monitor program unit owners
were reluctant to participate in their elections. Now approximately Sixty-five
percent of the unit owners are now voting to determine the members of their
administration. Many requests for election monitors were based on unit owners’
apprehension about their association’s ability to properly conduct their
elections in a fair and impartial manner. The procedures instituted by the
Ombudsman have been very effective in preventing election misconduct. However,
there is still a need for statutory improvement in the election procedure in
order to prevent misconduct and fraud. The wisdom and purpose that created the
election monitor and the monitoring process is achieving the desired legislative
Office of the Ombudsman has evolved into a truly successful liaison between the
condominium owners of the State of Florida and their government and has truly
brought the Department into the 21st Century.
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