Courtesy of WLPG Channel 10 News
Published April 6, 2023
More than 12 million Floridians live in HOA or condo associations which many
owners complain have little to no oversight. Local 10 investigative reporter
Amy Viteri spoke one-on-one with Miami-Dade State Attorney Catherine
Fernandez Rundle about how her office is making these cases a priority and
why proposed state law is needed to protect vulnerable homeowners.
There needs to be some
sort of accountability, there needs to be somebody looking
into this and doing something. We've reported the stories of
many South Florida residents frustrated by their condo and
homeowners associations and property management companies,
most recently BDM property management and owner Michael
Curtis. Residents have alleged corruption, lack of
transparency even theft but their biggest complaint no one
seems to be watching. You report to the Department of
Business and Professional Regulation, you report to the
mayor, you report to the commissioner you're on the news --
and nothing is done, no one seems to care in Miami-Dade.
County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle tells us
she is working on these cases.
Half of all 22 million Floridians live in condominium
associations or in homeowners associations.
The challenge: Much of the alleged wrongdoing in
associations isn't technically a crime, yet a proposed Bill making its way
through Florida's legislature is looking to change that by criminalizing
widespread offenses like withholding financial records, fraudulent election
activity and even kickbacks.
The only way you can really get the records under the present existing law
is to go to civil court and so sometimes what is the law and what feels like
a crime are not the same.
The bill that is sponsored by State Representative Juan Carlos Porres of
Miami would also create a pathway for criminal allegations to be passed to
law enforcement rather than remain within the State's Department of Business
and Professional Regulation which homeowners have complained for years seems
to be reluctant or ill-equipped to enforce the rules. We need an
investigative agency like FDLE who's going to be trained and engaged and
committed to these crimes.
What this law does is giving more teeth to the DBPR, gives them a constant
referral service -- a referral mandate if you like -- to the Florida
Department of Law Enforcement
Fernandez Rundle has been vocal in her support of new laws to criminalize
bad behavior in associations and property management companies which would
Fast Track investigations and help bring more cases to Justice. It was her
office that ultimately helped make arrests in the multi-million dollar
Hammocks Association case, a process which took years she says because of
the lack of existing laws around this behavior in its current state. The
legislation does not allocate specific personnel or funding for these
investigations something Fernandez Rundle had pushed for.
"Are you concerned about resources to dedicate toward that?" "I'm concerned
about resources at the investigative level, you know when we see a good case
put together that makes our case much easier. When we have to do both that
makes it more complicated and slower."