Courtesy of The Miami Herald
Published May 6, 2017
For years, too many condominium associations and their
management companies have acted as if they were dictatorships.
That soon will stop.
By a vote in the Florida Legislature, many of the abuses in
which these association managers engaged just became
criminal offenses, thanks to a bill passed in the state
Senate on Monday. The only thing missing now is the
That’s great news for the state’s condo dwellers, especially
those enduring abusive association management. They now have
some recourse, and the law is on their side.
According to the amendments to Chapter 718 of Florida law,
which regulates condos, evidence of fraud in board elections
become prosecutable. Among those actions now considered
punishable crimes: signature counterfeiting, document
manipulation, and ballot theft. Those convicted face steep
fines and even jail time.
Condo owners demonstrated in March in favor of the
law passed on Monday by the Florida Legislature.
The changes also makes it a crime to hide or alter public
records related to the condominium, mainly past financial reports, with the
intention of concealing or facilitating fraud.
The legislative action comes a year after the publication of an excellent
joint investigative series by el Nuevo Herald/Univision 23 -- “Nightmare
Condos” by reporters Brenda Medina and Enrique Flor.
It revealed cases of condo associations’ electoral fraud, the falsification
of signatures, conflicts of interest, alleged misappropriation of funds, you
name it. Offenders usually walked away, unpunished.
The series was followed by a Miami-Dade grand jury report that echoed the
series’ troubling revelations. The jury made 29 corrective recommendations
and asked for substantial changes to the state law that regulates condos and
the state agency that should ensure compliance with that law.
We praise the Legislature for combating the plague of condominium fraud. In
Florida, there are more than one and a half million condominiums, and more
are built every year.
This boom, sadly, opens up the possibility of fraud in their administration.
Often targeted are the coffers filled tenants’ maintenance fees. In the
past, many who have abused or defrauded associations have walked away
unscathed since there were no laws specifically addressing these issues.
The heroes in this story are State Sens. René García, R-Hialeah, and José
Javier Rodríguez, D-Miami. In the House, the sister bill was shepherded
through by Rep. José Félix Díaz, R-Miami — and a bus full of Miami-Dade
residents, all victims of condo associations and all now civic activists
because of it. They went to Tallahassee to rejoice and watch the bill pass
in the Senate. They were the people’s voice in this effort. We congratulate
their squeaky-wheel civic engagement.
As for the bad guys: The grand jury cited irresponsible inaction on the part
of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
There is no excuse for continued departmental indifference to condo owners’
distress. It’s imperative that authorities enforce the new law once Gov.
Scott signs it — which he should: Expediently investigate alleged abuses;
follow the irregularities; and examine negligent condo management
associations — the department must undertake these tasks with a sense of
The passage of the bill is a good first step to combating condo fraud and
bringing Florida condo associations under the protection of the Sunshine