Less-visible provisions may hurt unit owners

Article Courtesy of The Forum Publishing Group


Published March 12, 2009 


With the mortgage crisis looming, finding ways of stemming foreclosures and mandatory insurance will no doubt be major issues for condo residents this year. But as they head to Tallahassee this week, legislators have added other, smaller provisions to these larger proposed bills that will affect residents just as much.

"Some of the little things cost more money," said Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale. "These are quality-of-life issues."

A bill proposed by Bogdanoff focuses on eliminating mandatory interior insurance but also includes changes to board elections, mandatory certification forms for candidates and fire sprinkler retrofit deadlines. If the bill passes, the changes would go into effect Oct. 1.

"If you're going to do a bill like this, you should include everything," she said.


Lawmakers across the state have followed suit, tacking on issues that may affect fewer people but are equally important to their constituents. Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, represents a large condo community and attends town hall meetings to get a feel for what unit owners want. His bill, which addresses much of the foreclosure crisis, would exclude e-mail and home addresses from official records, remove the mandatory condo law certification form for candidates and revise the hurricane code compliance impact glass section. Ring said it's important to get every issue passed, but his main focus is on the mortgage crisis, which he called "the big monetary issue."

Although some of the issues appear small, even minute adjustments such as changing a few words can make a world of difference to board members, unit owners and lawyers. Bill Raphan, the state's assistant condo ombudsman, said last month the interior condo insurance issue was atop of the list of topics that callers want to discuss with his office.

The heart of the issue, Raphan said, is the use of vague wording such as "shall" and "may." Since October of last year, when many of the current legislative changes went into effect, Raphan said people have started calling with things they want to change in the legislation.

State lawmakers have had many opportunities to hear what unit owners have to say, from various online surveys sponsored by local lobbying and advocacy groups to town hall meetings attended by hundreds of condo residents.

Still, local legislators are hopeful this session will end with an outcome that will be acceptable to both unit owners and community associations.

"In my opinion, we need to do what government is supposed to do, which is [to] protect the people," said Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami.