Ombudsman Seminar on Florida’s West Coast Declared Huge Success!

By Jerry Koenig

Clearwater, Florida

May 13, 2006


Dr. Virgil Rizzo, Florida’s Condominium Ombudsman received accolades and appreciation from an enthusiastic crowd during his first seminar on the West Coast.  


Presented through the auspices of the Sand Key Civic Association as an informational and educational town hall meeting, Rizzo’s unique style and comprehensive knowledge captivated a large audience for almost three hours.  

A retired medical doctor and attorney, Rizzo was appointed by Governor Bush shortly after the creation of his office during the 2004 legislative session.  In operation for little more than a year, Rizzo has been a dynamo in developing policies and procedures to assist both unit owners and association boards in understanding their rights and responsibilities as set forth in Florida law and association documents.  


During an explanation of the purposes for which his office was created, he explained that he is charged with such far reaching duties as:

     acting as a liaison between managers, unit owners and association boards;

     monitoring disputes concerning elections;

     encouraging  and facilitating voluntary dispute resolution prior to formal proceedings;

     providing answers to questions regarding condominium rights and responsibilities;

     preparing  and offering educational and reference materials.


Despite a very limited budget and a very small staff, he has found that education is the primary key to resolving many problems. 


Based on thousands of calls and e-mail inquiries, Rizzo said, “Many unit owners and board members just don’t know how to proceed in a given situation.  Fortunately, there are only so many issues, so our office is able to explain in lay terms that their concern is not unique and we can provide references to the way similar concerns have previously been resolved.”  


 An evaluation of the questions received shows a predominant theme that may be summarized as distrust and/or disagreement, often heated and sometimes abusive, between unit owners and association board members.  When these kinds of disputes escalate to the point where attorneys are brought into the picture, the financial costs have a

tendency to become prohibitive.


Describing the genesis of the huge majority of these kinds of protracted disputes, Rizzo said, “The biggest problem is that condominium associations are businesses, but probably more than 50% are not run like businesses. Many associations are run by volunteers who have little or no experience or knowledge and who zealously protect their perceived positions of importance.”


In those situations, a secondary key to resolving what often becomes an impasse is to effectively level the playing field by serving as a neutral source – to listen carefully – and suggest tactfully.


In concluding his presentation, Rizzo provided the following contact information for those who have questions:


Website:          (This includes a helpful reference tab that provides answers to many of the questions often asked by condominium unit owners.)

E-mail:                    [email protected]

Phone:                    954.202.3234


After his presentation, Rizzo answered questions from the audience for more than an hour, not leaving until everyone had an opportunity to express their specific concerns.  For those who were fortunate enough to attend, the reaction was unanimous …


“It was a wonderfully informative and educational meeting.  Many of us didn’t even know we had such a helpful position in our State.  We hope we can get him back again next year, when it would be good to have managers attend, as well as more board members.  This is a great benefit!”