Article Courtesy of
The Sun Sentinel
By Joe Kollin
January 4, 2006
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is
taking applications from condo associations needing financial assistance to
repair roofs and other commonly owned property destroyed or damaged by
Hurricane Wilma, reversing an earlier refusal to offer such aid.
Jim Homstad, Orlando-based spokesman for FEMA,
said an elected member of an association's board must apply on behalf of the
association. If qualified, associations would be referred to the Small
Business Administration for low-interest loans. The loans would let
associations avoid imposing huge one-time special assessments on owners.
But the application deadline is midnight Thursday night--the same time that
everyone, even those not in condos, must apply -- warned Florida Condo
Ombudsman Virgil Rizzo. He urged condo boards to move quickly.
Individual condo owners with uninsured damage to the interior property, such
as furniture, should also apply, even if they don't want a loan.
"Just because you apply doesn't mean you have to take the loan, but if
you don't apply you may not be eligible for any government money,"
Inundated with complaints that condo owners couldn't get help to replace
and repair roofs and walls, Rizzo two weeks ago met with FEMA, state and
county officials in Fort Lauderdale to find out the reason.
"People from all over were coming to me because they couldn't get help
just because they lived in a condo, and that to me was outrageous," said
He was especially concerned with retirement communities, such as the
8,000-apartment Sunrise Lakes complex in Sunrise, where many buildings were
uninhabitable and associations couldn't get money to rebuild.
It turned out that associations couldn't get assistance because they
technically are corporations and FEMA has a rule against assisting
"It didn't matter that the unit owners owned the corporations, which
aren't for profit," Rizzo said. "FEMA just saw them as corporations
that they couldn't aid. I explained that in order to help the people they must
help the corporations."
He said FEMA then understood.
"They were willing to give people money for their individual roofs but
not a condo association," he said. "You can't have 30 or 60
individual owners in a condo building repairing their roof. One roof covers
the entire building"
He also took FEMA representatives to see condo buildings damaged so
extensively that local authorities weren't letting owners live in them, yet
owners couldn't get federal aid for repairs.
Unit owners in condemned buildings especially should benefit from FEMA's
decision to aid associations, said state Rep. Franklin Sands, D-Weston, whose
district includes Sunrise Lakes.
"People have been paying what amounts to double rent -- the cost of
maintaining their condo while paying for another place to live," he said.
"This will help offset some of that."
FOR FEMA ASSISTANCE
WHAT: Thursday is the deadline to apply for disaster assistance from FEMA if
your property was damaged during Hurricane Wilma.
TYPE OF AID: Rental assistance, repair grants, small business loans, housing
WHO IS ELIGIBLE: People who do not have insurance or whose losses are not
completely covered by private insurance. Insurance deductibles are not
IF YOU ARE NOT ELIGIBLE: Individuals and business owners who are ineligible
for a FEMA grant may apply for a U.S. Small Business Administration loan to
cover disaster-related losses. The deadline is also Thursday.
TO APPLY: To apply for a FEMA grant or SBA loan, visit