Virgil Rizzo, Florida’s Condominium Ombudsman received accolades and
appreciation from an enthusiastic crowd during his first seminar on the West
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.
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.
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
monitoring disputes concerning elections;
facilitating voluntary dispute resolution prior to formal proceedings;
providing answers to questions regarding condominium rights and
preparing and offering
educational and reference materials.
a very limited budget and a very small staff, he has found that education is
the primary key to resolving many problems.
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.”
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
to become prohibitive.
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.”
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.
concluding his presentation, Rizzo provided the following contact information
for those who have questions:
(This includes a helpful reference tab that provides
answers to many of the questions often asked by condominium unit owners.)
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 …
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