Courtesy of the SUN SENTINEL
first condominium ombudsman now has his own phone number -- but it is long
distance for most of the Floridians who want his services.
The number, 850-922-7671, rings in Virgil R. Rizzo's new Tallahassee
headquarters. But since he hasn't moved to the capital, he retrieves the
messages from his Fort Lauderdale apartment.
his appointment by Gov. Jeb Bush early this month, Rizzo has personally
responded to more than 200 phone calls -- 98 percent from Broward, Palm Beach
and Miami-Dade counties, with the balance from Pensacola to Daytona Beach and
Stuart to Naples.
Eventually Rizzo, a retired lawyer and physician, will have a toll-free number
and open branch offices throughout the state with local numbers.
The Florida Legislature created the condo ombudsman job earlier this year
because so many owners expressed dissatisfaction with the service provided by
the state's Bureau of Condominiums. It is the first such job in both the state
and the nation.
The ombudsman will attempt to mediate disputes between owners and boards,
educate both about their responsibilities, recommend enforcement to the bureau
when needed, and recommend new laws if needed.
Although the ombudsman is required to maintain his principal office in
Tallahassee, Rizzo said that "with all the action" in South Florida,
he hopes to eventually hire an attorney to handle the headquarters so he can
remain here to personally deal with issues.
Most complaints he has received so far involve issues regulated by individual
association condo documents and each is different.
Rizzo said he doesn't yet know how much money he will have to run his operation.
The law creating the office requires it to use money from the $4 million condo
trust fund instead of tax money.