Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
December 9, 2007
Pines - Nearly 200 condo owners asked top state leaders on Saturday to help
them limit the authority of boards that many described as "corrupt."
Among their top frustrations were the lack of regulations for condo boards and
delays in receiving responses to complaints filed with the state Department of
Business & Professional Regulation.
"Boards should be abiding by the rules," said Florida's Condominium
Ombudsman Danille Carroll, who led the three hour discussion at Broward
Community College's South Campus. "If you have bylaws and you see your
board is violating those laws, you need to do something about it."
She also encouraged those at the meeting to contact their local police
departments if they are being intimidated or threatened by their boards.
Condo owners quickly lined up at two microphones and passionately questioned
the panelists, who included state Reps. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach; Ari Porth,
D-Coral Springs; and Julio Robaina, R-Miami.
Does the president of a condo board have a legal right to change a lock on a
door?(No.)How will the recent rise in foreclosures affect condo association
regulation? (It's unclear.) Can a condo board request a W-2? (Yes.) What
resources are available to folks facing retaliation or physical harm? (They
should call their local police department.)
Harvey Wasserman, of Vero Beach, attended the meeting to file a complaint with
the state's regulatory agency. He filed his first complaint in April after
trying for months to obtain copies of financial statements, bid proposals and
various contracts from the board at the Del Mar Condominium.
"It's been very difficult. I've been labeled a troublemaker. I've been
called names at board meetings," said Wasserman. 55. "My reputation
has been destroyed within the community."
The number of complaints against condo boards has gone up dramatically in the
past five years, according to figures compiled by the state Division of
Florida Land Sales, Condominiums & Mobile Homes. As of June 30, condo
owners filed 2,682 complaints, compared to 1,413 complaints filed in the year
ending June 30, 2002.
"I know there's a lot of frustrated people here," said Robaina, who
in 2004 pushed through legislation that resulted in major changes to condo and
homeowner association law. "We have a lot to do to improve the laws that
regulate condos in Florida."
Carroll said her office is working to educate condo owners of the laws and
regulations governing associations. A pilot program started in May in
Miami-Dade County has allowed condo owners with incriminating evidence to fill
out a form and send it to the state condo ombudsman.
The ombudsman's office will screen the form and if it proves evidence of a
crime, send it to the local police department, sheriff's office or state
attorney for criminal prosecution.
In May, Broward State Attorney Mike Satz filed charges against four suspects
in an alleged kickback scheme at Parker Plaza Estates, a Hallandale Beach
condo. Joseph D. Greenberg, 83, the former head of the condo association,
agreed last month to pay $250,000 in restitution, serve seven years' probation
and forfeit ownership of his condo. The other three are awaiting trial.
Authorities have also charged Doris Weinstein, the former president of the
Quadomain condominium in Hollywood, with grand theft, accusing her of using
condo funds to pay health insurance premiums for herself and her husband.
Weinstein, 64, has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
Lynn Kropf, of Pompano Beach, said she began questioning her condo board
several years ago when her quarterly assessments rose more than 50 percent to
She described the assessments as "alarming" and said it has made her
consider moving out of condominiums altogether.
"You just feel like you live in fear of what will happen to us if there's
another assessment or hurricane," said Kropf, 49.
Jose and Josefa Gomez, of North Miami Beach, echoed the concerns, adding that
the ombudsman's office has been a valuable resource.
"We're learning what we can and cannot do and what our rights are,"
said Jose Gomez, 81. "They've been our salvation."