and Video Courtesy of Channel 2
Florida -- Cape Coral, Naples, Ft. Myers, Punta Gorda
February 18, 2011
You know the saying, "stuck
between a rock and a hard place." That's what it feels like for Ryan
Wipplinger and his three roommates in Fort Myers. They're suddenly in the
middle of a dispute between the homeowner's association and their
The roommates are
in the middle of the situation because of a
new Florida law that's supposed to protect condo
associations and responsible owners from the deadbeat
owners next door.
The Florida law
took effect last summer and allows homeowners associations
to seize rental payments from tenants when owners owe debt
or other community fees.
L. Weldon, an attorney based in Naples, says he has
represented hundreds of associations
tenants about this matter in Southwest Florida alone.
"Lawmakers had good
intentions," said Weldon. "They were trying to fix a
But the NBC2 Investigators
uncovered those good intentions are leading to some unintended
consequences in the real world.
Wipplinger rents a condo in a
gated community just off Tamiami Trail from an owner who lives in New
Several months ago, the condo
association came to Wipplinger and ordered him to start directing his
monthly rental payments to them, bypassing the owner.
The owner had
none of it.
the owner demanded the tenants continue paying him, not
Wipplinger and his roommates aren't sure who to pay, or
what the consequences may be.
am I supposed to do?" asked Wipplinger.
just graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University last
spring and is holding down a part-time retail job trying
to figure out his future.
"Everybody's greedy. I
understand we need to pay rent. We will pay rent. But everyone's saying
‘pay us, pay me, do this, do that," he said.
Wipplinger said he feels
threatened with eviction from both the association and the owner, who both
want to be paid rent.
NBC2 went to the lawmaker who
wrote the law, which was then House Bill 419.
Representative Matt Hudson
of Naples says he co-wrote the bill to fight the growing problem of owners
who simply walk away from mortgage payments or community fees.
"I think [the law] puts
tenants in a better position than they ever were before," said
Hudson claims the law protects
responsible owners from higher assessments that would otherwise be imposed
because irresponsible owners aren't paying their fair share of community
The law, he says, also ensures
condo associations have the funds to maintain community areas and perform
services, like pool cleaning and landscaping.
Condo associations are authorized
to collect rental payments simply upon presenting a letter to tenants that
claims their unit owner owes the association money. No court proceeding is
The law gives tenants, like
Wipplinger, immunity from eviction actions brought by the owner, so long
as the tenants pay the association and keep receipts.
However, in the real world,
situations don't always work out so smoothly.
Wipplinger says his unit owner
has been demanding rent money and showed up one morning pounding on their
The owner told NBC2 he disagrees
with the association's claim that he is in debt to them.
Meanwhile, Wipplinger says he's
paying the association, but says his roommate felt pressured into cutting
a separate check for the owner.
"Both parties are trying to
bully me," said Wipplinger.
Rep. Hudson couldn't offer any
advice to Wipplinger, claiming he's never heard of situations like this
Tenants should know Florida law
prohibits owners from changing the locks.