Ombudsman's classes examine new condo regulations

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel


Published August 1, 2010

With a number of new regulations taking effect, the state's Condominium Ombudsman Office is beginning to roll out its annual courses that aim to keep board members and residents informed about their rights and responsibilities.

The Ombudsman Office offers a variety of classes focusing on finance, condo board participation, elections and statutes.

"My knowledge [of condo laws] has grown immensely," said Harriet Higgins, a condo owner from Fort Lauderdale whose husband is president of the board. "The more knowledge everyone has, the better it is for everyone."

The interactive classes are supported by the condo trust fund and take place at Broward Community College's North Campus, 1000 Coconut Creek Blvd., in Coconut Creek.

The cost for each class is $19, and the college charges for fees and parking. Bill Raphan, the assistant condo ombudsman and instructor of the classes, said each session averages about 60 people and that the Ombudsman Office provides students with supplies and educational materials.

Raphan said his office has received numerous calls regarding Senate Bill 1196 since it was enacted July 1. Each class will also cover issues related to the new bill.

Higgins said the classes make a "big difference" in participants' understanding of the new laws. "You have to know them," she said.

Jerry Judd, a condo owner in Oakland Park who recently became president of his board, said there is a lot of conflicting information regarding the state's condo laws. But after attending a class, he said he feels more comfortable and is encouraging other residents to attend. Association meetings run smoother when people know what's going on, he said.

"The law can be frustrating, and having a source to go to is very helpful," Judd said.

Before the housing market collapsed and condominium associations began to struggle financially, board meetings were less contentious, Fort Lauderdale condo president Nancy Langsdale said.

Now, with the economy lagging, Langsdale said there is even more confusion and angst in condo communities. She said she once had to call police to a board meeting and added that her association is involved in a number of lawsuits.

"People are under pressure, and with the finances, everybody has problems," she said. "It was easier when everyone paid [their monthly dues] and there weren't as many complaints."

Because of that confusion and anger, Langsdale said she recommends that residents attend the classes so they can better understand how condo laws and regulations work and also bring the correct information to board meetings.

For information on condo classes, call 954-201-7800.