Article Courtesy of
The Sun Sentinel
By Maria Herrera
October 20, 2006
West Delray · Florida's condominium ombudsman enjoys traveling the state to meet people.
"I believe in getting out and educating people about their rights and responsibilities," condominium ombudsman Danille Carroll said. "We are here to be a resource."
A Thursday seminar organized by the Alliance of Delray Residential Associations gave Carroll a forum to introduce herself and offer help.
But "you also have a role to educate others in your communities," she told participants.
The meeting at the Vizcaya gated community involved presidents from local homeowners and condo associations, Bill Raphan of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and attorney Joshua Gerstin, who offered advice about complicated issues such as hurricane reserve funds and mediation.
Carroll, a Tallahassee attorney who worked for the state Department of Health, is the second ombudsman since the office was created in 2004. She replaced Virgil Rizzo in June after Gov. Jeb Bush fired him. Rizzo was the nation's first condominium ombudsman.
"I realize it is an important position," Carroll said. "It's about being an active voice."
Since her appointment in June, Carroll has attended 27 town hall meetings and forums to educate people about her office.
The ombudsman and her staff prepare educational material for board or association members as well as condo owners. In addition, the office appoints people to monitor condominium elections, makes recommendations for legislation and prepares reports for the governor, the state House and Senate and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Carroll said there often are problems between condo and homeowner associations and advocacy groups that represent individual unit owners, but she said she hopes to serve as mediator.
"We are a neutral office," Carroll said.
Since June, the office has received more than 3,700 calls and almost 1,000 e-mails.
Gerstin, who represents more than 200 local homeowner and condo associations, said a House bill could bring changes, including a longer mediation period and disclosing reserve funds in the annual budget.
"This is an issue the alliance feels is timely," alliance president Bob Schulbaum said. "These meetings have created a dialogue."
After the meeting, Delray Villas homeowner association president Leatrice Kolodney said she wished there was a homeowner ombudsman in addition to Carroll's position.
Homeowner associations don't have to abide by many of the regulations that govern condominiums.
Still, Kolodney said, "We have gotten good information."