Opinion By Jan Bergemann
Published February 16, 2019
Latest estimates in housing trends point to more than 50% of all Floridians will be living in a community association by the year 2022. A well-functioning regulatory agency is needed to protect Florida’s citizens from abuses, financial mismanagement and expensive litigation that often causes them to lose their home. Considering that many of Florida’s citizens are elderly and live on a limited income leaves them often helpless towards abuses and outright dictatorships.
The Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes is charged with providing oversight of the Florida residential communities and to regulate through education, complaint resolution, mediation and arbitration, and developer disclosure.
Unfortunately, most residents currently living in some version of a community association, believe the Division is somewhat dysfunctional and place the cause of the less than stellar service upon the Division's personnel.
Right or wrong, the perception that Division employees simply rely upon their own “interpretation” of the Florida statutes – or are unresponsive in a timely fashion -- persists.
Just read the Final Report of the Miami-Dade Grand Jury, filed on February 6, 2017. The report makes it very clear that the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation “is not effective and doesn’t protect condominium owners from fraud and mismanagement,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said. “This makes condo owners even more vulnerable to manipulations and in some cases leads to the loss of their homes.”
You can find the report at: http://www.ccfj.net/condoGrandJuryReport.pdf
Everybody thought that this was a wake-up call for some Division employees – but it got even worse!
Congratulations to Governor Ron DeSantis and kudos for appointing Secretary Halsey Beshears to begin cleaning the Department and turning it into an efficient and consumer-friendly state agency!
In order to make this agency fee-payer-friendly (Condo Trust Fund) again, quite a few of the momentary employees in leading positions should be replaced.
These are our suggestions to Secretary Beshears given in the hopes that "business as usual" will come to an end and things will finally change for the better.
Secretary Beshears, PLEASE consider the replacement of the following individuals:
Kevin Stanfield, Director (DONE! THANK YOU!)
BUREAU OF COMPLIANCE:
OFFICE OF THE CONDO OMBUDSMAN:
Bruce Campbell, Condo Ombudsman
Richard Luther, Office of the Condo Ombudsman Ft. Lauderdale
For detailed reasons please see: COLLAPSE OF THE CONDO OMBUDSMAN’S OFFICE
In the opinion of many condo-owners these Division employees need to be replaced in order to make the Division effective again.
The arbitration section needs new blood, better paid attorneys willing to follow the laws and not finding ambiguous interpretations between the lines. The Florida BAR even intends to file legislation to remove the arbitration section of the Division totally.
We really don’t need the methods of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit here in Florida.
If our new leadership is willing to make the necessary personnel changes and the Division is restored to a functioning agency once again, homeowner complaints should be a welcomed addition to the Division's jurisdiction as well. All that is needed is to apply s. 718.501 F.S., to Chapter 720.
This could add an estimated 2.5 million homeowners willing to pay a fee for a complaint resolution process that exists for condo owners, but not HOA owners.
The condo per unit fee could be reduced from $4 dollars for condo units, down $2 dollars for everyone. I can assure you that this would make a lot of Floridians very happy.
The idea of a regulatory agency enforcing rules and laws is excellent, if the agency does what it is tasked to do.
Never forget: The best laws are useless without enforcement!
These changes would make millions of
registered Florida voters really happy!