condominium association did not return her escrow deposit, Sunrise Lakes
Phase One resident Imogene Ferguson filed a complaint with the state's
Office of the Condominium Ombudsman.
Within weeks, her condominium association sent her back her deposit.
Earlier this year, Ferguson filed a complaint with the Ombudsman's office
again asking for someone to supervise her association's December board
elections. While she waits to hear back from the office, rumors that the
Ombudsman's office could close have her and other residents worried.
"We won't have any where to go to when we have condo commandos. This was the only place we could go to," Ferguson said.
The rumors began after the state's Department of Business and Profession Regulation issued an exercise state budget last year that included the removal of the office.
However, legislators haven't reviewed the proposal yet, said Bill Raphan,
spokesman for the Condominium Ombudsman's office.
"The legislature would have to approve it, it would require some talk
and agreement. It will all depend on what they decide," Raphan said.
So far, the only thing residents can do is contact their legislators and ask
them to maintain the office, Raphan said.
Not wanting to take a risk, Ferguson and fellow Sunrise Lakes Phase One
resident Richard Brenner collected 200 signatures in their residential
complex and sent them to the Condos of Hollywood Beach, a coalition of condo
associations that has been collecting signatures throughout the county to
"Everyone is upset at this and wanted to sign. We will have no where to
go to complain. We are losing our voice, that's what's going to
happen," Brenner said.
Since it was created in 2004, the Condominium Ombudsman's Office has been
helping solve conflicts between condominium owners, board members and
condominium associations by acting as a neutral resource of information and
guidance. Last year, the office made 16,000 calls throughout the state,
Ferguson is very familiar with what the office does.
"They didn't resolve your problem, they tell you how to resolve it.
Most of us don't know how to do it," Ferguson said.
Another important element of the office is its educational component: a
series of monthly workshops that helped educate associations and owners
about condominium laws.
The seven positions in the office, six in Fort Lauderdale
in Tallahassee, are financially supported by a $4 annual fee every
condominium owner paid. It's unlikely that in these economic times the fee
will be raised to maintain the office, Raphan said.
Ferguson received reassurance that every case submitted before the office
closes will be reviewed, but she warns this will be troubling.
"People will find out that the office is closing and will get serious
about submitting complaints," Ferguson said.