Courtesy of The Miami Herald
September 9, 2007
Bill Raphan isn't shy about telling people how valuable
his course, Condominium Rights & Obligations, is.
''Anybody who lives in a condominium should absolutely
take this class,'' he said emphatically.
Raphan, Florida's assistant condo ombudsman, and his
wife, Susan, of Tamarac, have offered the six-hour course at Broward Community
College for several years to try and bring reason to Florida's
often-controversial condo battles.
The class draws both unit owners and board members,
looking to sort out the rights and responsibilities of living in a condo
association under Florida law.
The Raphans work for the State Ombudsman's office, which
was created in 2004 to assist unit owners, board members and condominium
Bill Raphan said aging buildings are the biggest
problems many associations are facing now.
''They are all 20, 30 and 40 years old and they need to
be redone, and that can be costly,'' he said.
The cost is passed on to unit owners, often in the form
of a special assessment, which Raphan said has become among the two ''dirtiest
words'' in the English language.
Retirement brought the couple to Florida. After running
a kosher catering business on Long Island for many years, they bought a condo
here. Raphan took a seat on the board and quickly became president. He found
out just how cutthroat the business could be after returning from a vacation.
''I came back and found I wasn't president anymore,'' he
His interest piqued, Raphan went to hear Virgil Rizzo,
the first state ombudsman, speak in Dania Beach. They hit it off, and Rizzo
offered the Raphans a chance to volunteer with his office.
The first year, he and Susan got more than 15,000 calls
and 20,000 e-mails from irate unit owners.
''We were working seven days a week,'' Raphan said.
``Most of that time we were only volunteers.''
The office grew and, Raphan said, so did the calls. Now
it's not just unit owners he hears from, but board members, property managers
and attorneys, all needing advice and guidance. ''They all want to see what
they should be doing,'' he said.
In addition to fielding calls and complaints, the office
monitors condo elections and visits as many condos as possible to help at
meetings and educate owners.
Raphan said the current ombudsman, Danille Carroll,
believes education is the key to solving many condo issues.
''We feel that a lot of the problems are caused because
people just are not informed about the statutes and the laws and what they can
and can't do,'' Raphan said.
Raphan took the class over from Rizzo in 2005 and now is
trying to expand it to other community colleges.
Beginning this semester, the course will include the
rules of running proper condo association meetings, which Raphan said is a
huge problem statewide.
He said it's not uncommon for police officers to be on
hand at meetings. Someone once pulled a gun on Raphan when he was trying to
explain a special assessment.
He had to be escorted out by guards.
actually asked if we were going to come back again,'' he said.
information on condo classes, call BCC at 954-201-7800 or visit www.broward.edu.
condo ombudsman's Fort Lauderdale satellite office is at 1400 W. Commercial
Blvd. Call 954-202-3234, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit www.myflorida.com/condos.