New rules protecting condo owners become law

Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law a new set of protections for condominium owners.

The measures were pushed by two Miami-Dade legislators.

Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald

By LAURA FIGUEROA

Published May 2, 2008 

TALLAHASSEE -- Traveling throughout the state, Rep. Julio Robaina, a Miami Republican, has heard his fair share of ''horror stories'' about unruly condominium associations -- from limits on access to financial records to board members' helping themselves to funds.

Days ago, he read about a Pompano Beach man shot to death by a SWAT team after the man held employees of his condo association hostage at gunpoint for an hour.

''Sorry Ma. Could not handle these condo people,'' Patrick Dellisanti wrote in a suicide note to his mother. Police say Dellisanti owed more than $3,000 in back assessments and dues on his condo. He called the workers ''scum,'' and wrote that they "should not be working at my condo.''

Robaina, who headed a state task force culling the state for solutions to condo association woes, hopes a new 96-page set of regulations that monitors condo associations will avoid or alleviate such problems before they become crises. The measure was signed into law Thursday afternoon by Gov. Charlie Crist.

''With no one really looking over these boards, the temptation has driven many people to fraud the associations,'' Robaina said.

The bill:

 Requires any condo association director charged with felony theft or embezzlement to be removed from office until the charges are cleared.

 Requires condo associations to give 30 days notice before filing a lien against a unit owner.

 Allows unit owners to place an item on a board meeting agenda through a petition of 20 percent of owners.

 Requires that meeting minutes and any other official records must be made available within 45 miles of the condominium property.

Robaina said he received complaints that records were stored in facilities several counties away, limiting condo owners' ability to gain timely access to the records.

The bill gained notoriety after an April 19 showdown in the House, when Democratic Leader Rep. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach -- angered at the House GOP leadership -- called for each bill to be read in full.

First bill up for reading? Robaina's 96-page proposal.

''I hope you all like condo law,'' House Speaker Marco Rubio of West Miami quipped that day.

It took more than two hours to get through the bill, which eventually passed. Thursday, Sen. Alex Villalobos, a Miami Republican who carried the measure in the Senate, joked it only took two minutes to pass there.

''There should be no one in the House who is not well versed on this bill,'' Robaina shot back.

The measure is five years in the making for Robaina, who has unsuccessfully pushed such legislation previously.

''What they've done is given power back to the people,'' Crist said after signing the bill.

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