Courtesy of the Sun Sentinel
Saturday, January 29, 2005
BEACH · You are sitting at your kitchen table eating dinner when the president
of your condominium association barges in through your unlocked door. He rants
and raves because you backed into your parking spot.
You aren't allowed to back in, he screams at you. The rules say you must pull
Do you, as a condo owner, have any recourse, other than keeping your door
The state's new condo ombudsman says you do. Dr. Virgil Rizzo told a
standing-room-only crowd of about 250 on Friday that an individual director or
officer has no power to order anyone to do anything. Like any corporation, only
the board of directors can issue orders.
"He's not king of the castle," said Rizzo, a retired lawyer and
physician making his first public appearance. "The board is king. Directors
have to realize they have to act together and that individually they have no
authority to tell you what to do. Individually, they're just unit owners like
In addition to voting the president out of office at the next election, owners
do have recourse, he said.
"I recommend calling 911. He can't come barging into your apartment like
that," he said.
Police might not like answering such calls, he conceded, but it is a civil
disturbance and most important, the officer will file a report. That provides
written evidence of a dispute, needed for the state to get involved, he said.
Gov. Jeb Bush last month appointed Rizzo to the post created by the Legislature.
Legislators wanted someone to mediate disputes, provide education for owners and
directors and recommend changes to condo law.
Although the ombudsman can only help condo owners, State Rep. Julio Robaina,
R-Miami, is working on legislation to allow him to help those in mandatory
Robaina also is helping get money so Rizzo can hire a staff and open offices.
Currently, he has been responding to all inquiries himself, about 25 calls and
25 e-mails a day, he said. He also drives throughout the state to mediate
disputes and monitor elections.
Rizzo said he expects Robaina to get him a supplemental appropriation, enough to
hire one employee, in the next few weeks.
He is seeking a budget of nearly $1 million for the year beginning July 1.
"I'm thrilled we have a person finally who can help us with our problems
and Dr. Rizzo seems well-qualified to do the job," said Jill Beiley, a
director of an Aventura condo attended the town hall-style meeting at Dania City
Not everyone agreed.
"He's an advocate against condo boards. He assumes that boards are always
wrong," said Neal Ketcher, an owner in the River Reach condo complex in
Fort Lauderdale where Rizzo also lives.
Rizzo has sued his board and directors have sued him.
It seems even Florida's condo ombudsman needs an ombudsman.