Condo changes still a priority in Florida Legislature

Article Courtesy of The Forum Publishing Group

By Chris Guanche

Published March 24, 2008 


As the current session of the Florida Legislature winds down, more changes are on the way for the statutes that govern condo associations.

The changes cover several areas of condo management.

One change, coming from the Senate, lowers the amount that condo associations collect for the state's condo trust fund from $4 per unit to $2 for the 2008-2009 fiscal year.

During the Legislature's earlier rush to cut its budget and find new sources of revenue, the condo trust fund was one of several funds the state considered dipping into, but ultimately decided against it.

Lowering the amount of money that will be poured into the fund raises questions about how the state will be able to fund programs such as condo education courses, said Donna Berger, executive director of the Community Advocacy Network, a division of law firm Katzman & Korr. Berger said she has heard complaints from condo owners about the current funding level and services it funds from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the condo ombudsman's office.

"I don't know if it's a function of if their powers are limited, or if it's the funding," Berger said.

Some of those problems may result from complaints being sent to government agencies that should instead be handled by attorneys, she said.

A lack of enforcement power is one item addressed in a recently passed House bill from Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami.

The bill provides the DBPR with the authority to investigate complaints against community association managers, as well as community association management firms.

"Increased enforcement is an important step," said Jan Bergemann, president of Deland-based activist group Cyber Citizens for Justice.

"It is now not up to the DBPR to decide what they want [or do not want] to investigate," he said. "They have to do it."

Another provision prohibits condo owners who are delinquent in paying fees from serving on association boards.

There are also changes to board member terms, allowing for staggered terms if permitted by the association's bylaws.

"A lot of community members like staggered terms, and they don't necessarily want to be dragged out every year to elect an entire board," Berger said.

Bergemann said having staggered terms creates a more even playing field in elections.

"It's hard to run against an incumbent when they're using the resources of the association to get re-elected," he said.

The bill also covers an issue that's been controversial in many associations: the placement of religious objects on exterior doors.

In some associations, conflicts have emerged from the placement of Jewish mezuzahs on door frames. Now, objects that fall under certain size restrictions can be placed on doors.