Committee hears local condo concerns

Article Courtesy of The Forum Publishing Group

By Chris Guanche

Published February 14, 2008


Condominium owners from across Broward and Miami-Dade counties had a chance to voice their concerns during the second and final South Florida area public meeting of the Legislature's House Select Committee on Condominium & Homeowners Association Governance, a newly created state House investigatory committee.

The committee meeting served a dual purpose: Hear testimony regarding specific issues from local associations, as well as general public comments regarding how condos and homeowners associations are run.

"Our mission is to try to work with as many individual cases as we can ... that are stuck and try to help people solve their problems in a very limited way," said Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, the committee's chairman.

The committee hopes to help owners and associations resolve common disputes. For any future cases heard by the committee, voluntary first notices will be mailed out to the involved parties. If both the first and second voluntary notices are ignored, the committee possesses subpoena power to compel parties to testify.

"The committee's purpose was not to bring in preconceived notions about how associations are run," said committee member Rep. Joseph A. Gibbons, D- Hallandale Beach .

"I hope that everyone can say at the end of the day that they're happy with the way their board operates," Gibbons said. "There's good and bad with everything, and we're looking for both the good and the bad."

Condo fraud and police investigations are two of most common concerns cited by condo owners, and Assistant Condo Ombudsman Bill Raphan said a training session was scheduled for police departments in both Broward and Miami-Dade.

In the complaints heard by the committee during the recent public meeting, a common thread ran through them: more access to association documents. One case involved several owners requesting financial statements from a previous board and management company.

To address the issue of condo documents, Rep. Kevin C. Ambler, R- Tampa , suggested that a law firm representing an association create a Web site where unit owners can access many commonly requested documents, such as financial statements or board meeting minutes.

"This would eliminate probably 99 percent of these document disputes," Ambler said. "Everyone has access to it and there's no dispute about what they can see and what they can't."

Overall, the public meeting attracted more than 200 people, Robaina said, and was one of five meetings organized around the state. Robaina also said another common concern raised by owners was the Department of Business and Professional Regulation's lack of enforcement power.

"People really feel that there's no enforcement from the state, that they pay money and nothing happens," he said.

Robaina said he wants to hold more meetings in more locations across the state after the next session of the Legislature ends in May.

The committee meets again on Saturday in Orlando.

For more information about the Select Committee on Condominium & Homeowners Association Governance visit www.myfloridahouse.gov.