Courtesy of The Nuevo Herald
Published July 18, 2017
A few days after the new Florida condominium law came
into effect, Martin Gonzalez went to the Miami-Dade County police to file a
complaint about alleged fraud in his condominium.
The answer angered him. According to Gonzalez, they told him that they could
not help him and that he went to the police department of his city, Miami
But the answer that, according to Gonzalez, received by the Miami Beach
police was even more frustrating: "They told me which new law they did not
know about a new law."
For years, police departments have refused to receive or investigate
allegations of fraud in condominium associations, because state laws
regulating this type of housing did not include references to criminal
offenses and punishments.
Now, after extensive reform to Chapter 718 of the Florida Constitution,
passed during the most recent legislative session in Tallahassee, the law
DOES include criminal penalties for some actions by the Condo Associations.
But the reform came into effect on July 1, and several police departments
told the Nuevo Herald that they are barely inquiring and preparing their
police personnel for the implementation of the new law.
"We have begun working with the Miami-Dade State Attorney and in the coming
weeks we will meet with them and our agents from the Economic Crimes Unit to
discuss best practices to investigate these crimes," said agent Ernesto
Friday Rodriguez, spokesman for the Miami Beach Police.
"As with any new law, we adapt and see the best way to handle complaints as
a police department," Rodriguez said, adding that he did not know specific
details about Martín González's complaint.
Since March 2016, the Nuevo Herald and Univisión 23 have published the
Nightmare Condos investigative series, which revealed cases of electoral
fraud in condominium association meetings, document forgery and fraudulent
tenders. The series highlighted the lack of action and the limitations of
the authorities on the complaints of owners, both the police and the state
agency for Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).
Gonzalez, of the Miami Beach condominium, said they do not understand why
the authorities are not ready to implement the law immediately.
"When it was said that walking without a seat belt was illegal, the next day
the patrol cars were on the road putting tickets to people who were walking
without the belt," Gonzalez said. "So why do we have to wait?"
Authorities said implementing condo laws and conducting investigations is
not as "black and white" as putting a fine for not wearing a seat belt.
Agents need to be educated and trained, and residents understand the
difference between civil and criminal matters. The latter are those that the
police can investigate, while civil complaints must be handled by the DBPR.