Reports blasts state condo agency

Article Courtesy of the Sun Sentinel

By Joe Kollin

Published April 20, 2005


The state's condominium owners aren't being served by the agency that is supposed to watch out for them, according to a newly released report by the Legislature's watchdog agency.

State officials on Tuesday lauded the yearlong investigation, which said the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums & Mobile Homes takes too long to act on complaints filed by condo owners and needs to take stronger action against boards that violate condo law. The state Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability also said the division should more frequently use mediation instead of more-costly arbitration to resolve disputes between owners and boards.

"It explains what we have known all along, that there are major problems in the [division] that need to be addressed immediately," said state Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, who chaired the committee last year that resulted in the investigation.

The report recommends the division issue fines instead of just warning letters when violations occur. However, since all unit owners pay fines -- not just directors who violate the law -- the state would need to hold directors responsible without discouraging owners from serving on boards.

Robaina is again trying to change condo law during the current legislative session.

He successfully sponsored a bill in the Legislature last year that created the position of Florida condo ombudsman.

The ombudsman, Virgil Rizzo of Fort Lauderdale, praised the report by Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability.

"It's right on," he said. "It supports what we've been saying, that there would be no need for the position of ombudsman if they did their job."

Rizzo said he is proving it can be done in less time.

"If I can resolve an issue in 48 hours and it takes them a year, that's a tremendous benefit both to unit owners and the state of Florida," Rizzo said.

In her response, Diane Carr, secretary of the division's parent agency, the Department of Business & Professional Regulation, said the division will show improvement in its upcoming quarterly report.

Robaina said he would spend the summer working to implement the report's recommendations.

Once the division is overhauled, he said he will attempt to have it also regulate homeowner associations.