Courtesy of the SUN SENTINEL
· During a town hall meeting Saturday, hundreds of Floridians who live in condo
and homeowner association communities had their questions answered by top state
officials, aired beefs about their boards and previewed plans for major changes
in state laws.
"How many people are here because they are having a problem with their
associations?" asked state Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami. Almost everyone in
the audience -- 300 people -- raised their hands.
"How many came because everything is OK and we shouldn't change any
laws?" he asked. Only one hand went up.
Robaina, who last year pushed through legislation that resulted in major changes
to condo and homeowner association law, was one of several legislators and state
officials at the meeting. State Rep. Franklin Sands, D-Weston, organized the
gathering to hear the concerns of condo owners in anticipation of the
legislative session, which begins March 8.
The Legislature last year made major changes to condo association law after
years of boards accumulating near dictatorial powers. As a result, the state now
has an ombudsman to educate condominium owners and directors, recommend
enforcement of state law and mediate disputes. The new law eliminates the power
of homeowner associations to foreclose on owners who don't pay fines for
"It will take more than one session to get everything you want because this
is a long-term process, but we hope to level the playing field for you,"
Rep. Irving Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, told the crowd. Boards, their attorneys and
management companies, Robaina said, use the maintenance money that owners pay to
block changes in the law.
"The only way to level the playing field is for residents to speak
up," Robaina said. "Please engage yourselves. If you're willing to
come out here on a Saturday, send e-mails to each and every one of your
representatives in the House and Senate. Help us out if you want your day to
Robaina said his proposals in the new legislative session will include mandatory
training for newly elected board members and an ombudsman for homeowner
Residents got the chance to ask questions of everyone from Michael Cochran, the
state's chief condo official, to Virgil Rizzo, the state's new condo ombudsman.
Glenda Wilkinson of Pompano Beach wanted to know whether boards could elect
their officers by secret ballot. Mark Benton, the vice chairman of the newly
formed state condominium advisory council, said they could.
Dan Salvetti of Weston wanted to know if someone could file a complaint with the
state on behalf of an owner who won't file on his own behalf for fear of
Cochran said the state can only act on an owner's complaints.