Governor adds protection for condo owners


Article Courtesy of The Sun Marco Sun-Times
By Maury Dailey

Published December 22, 2004


The condominium lifestyle in Florida is extremely popular. But sometimes there's trouble in paradise. Gov. Bush recently set up an ombudsman position to address conflicts between condominium owners and condominium boards.

It's easy to see why condominiums are in such high demand. You can live in a condominium and go away on a trip or go north after season by just locking your door and walking away. The condo association, through its manager, takes care of maintaining common areas like the landscaping, parking lot and pool areas. It also offers the possibility to use the condominium as a rental investment. No wonder condominiums are so popular in vacation areas.

But along with all of that popularity putting owners together with varying backgrounds can cause a variety of issues. Sometimes new condominium owners believe that those most fit to serve on the condominium board of directors are those that stay here year round. It seems to make sense for meetings and follow-up on building issues. But those "locals" sometimes make changes to the condo rules and regulations to fit their interests and not necessarily the interests of the rest of the condo owners.

Many of the condo owners are unwilling to question what their board does since they're unwilling to get involved themselves. So certain issues get addressed that can end up costing a lot of money and impacting everyone. Landscape expenses can grow. Adding more plant material that needs maintenance adds to the budget. Sometimes security or added security systems are instituted. Rules and regulations can get changed like rules on using the pool.

Another area addressed by new condominium boards is rental policies. Many condominium buyers initially purchase a condominium as a rental investment. They use the condominium themselves for the first several years of ownership and rent out their property when they're not using it. Eventually, they usually take their condominium out of a rental program and use it exclusively for themselves.

Sometimes there are conflicts that arise between a condominium board and an owner. The condominium manager plays an important role as peacemaker and peacekeeper. But sometimes more is needed.

That's why Gov. Bush recently tapped Virgil Rizzo. Rizzo is a retired attorney and doctor from Fort Lauderdale. He's Florida's first condominium ombudsman. He will be based in Tallahassee but will also have an office in South Florida due to the number of condos down here. It'll take several weeks to get set up. But since the first announcement of his position, he's been swamped with phone calls.

Until his office gets set up, condominium boards and owners can contact the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes at their toll free number of (800)226-9101. Of course, calling Tallahassee for help can be a long stretch. But if you're not making progress through your board, now you have a new route to solve a problem.

Condominium living is still a great option for the lifestyle of many people. Ask your professional Realtor on our paradise coast for additional information about condominiums.

I look forward to seeing you around our island paradise.

Maury Dailey was the 2003 vice president of the Florida Association of Realtors, SW Florida Region. He was the 2003 Realtor of the Year and the 2002 President of the Marco Island Area Association of Realtors. He is the broker/owner of Sunrise Realty of Florida. You can direct questions and comments to him at [email protected]