Report criticizes handling of condo owner complaints

Article Courtesy of the Jacksonville Times-Union


Published April 1, 2005

TALLAHASSEE -- The state agency that receives complaints by Floridians in condominiums is responding too late and too lightly, says a draft copy of an audit triggered by a couple who live seasonally on Amelia Island.

Florida's Division of Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes, which regulates the creation, sale and operation of about 1.1 million condo units, closes too many cases beyond deadlines and prefers weak responses such as sending letters instead of stronger acts like levying fines. A final version of the audit is expected in mid-April. As an operational audit, it focused on the division's policies and performance, not its finances.

The audit was authorized last June by Sen. Jim King in his former role as Senate president after criticism of condo associations from throughout the state. Legislators eventually established an ombudsman's office and passed two laws to strengthen and safeguard residents' rights.

But it was Steve and Judy Comley who started it. The retired couple waged a public relations war last year over the rental rights to their 2,300-square-foot Amelia Island condo, where they live each winter. The Comleys have been enmeshed in a nine-year dispute with the association that regulates the unit.

King , R-Jacksonville, said he hopes the audit helps the division turn a corner.