Town hall draws crowd, questions about condos, HOAs

Community association owners, board members want help from lawmakers


Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Daniel Vasquez

Published November 4, 2009


Here is what is most clear after last week's Sun Sentinel Town Hall Meeting on Condos & HOAs: Many owners and board members from community associations across South Florida are frustrated and fearful about finances, foreclosures and other festering issues.

And there is no denying that there is a need for solutions, and for help from lawmakers.

Approximately 250 people from Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties attended the Oct. 29 event sponsored by the Sun Sentinel and hosted by Nova Southeastern University in Davie. On. 27, the newspaper also held a Condos & HOAs online chat, which drew nearly 300 participants who posted about 180 questions.

Several key questions emerged over and over again. Many who participated in the chat and town hall wanted to know what potential reforms lawmakers plan to consider when they reconvene next year.

"We are caught in a terrible situation," said Diana Correll, of Deerfield Beach, whose sentiments were typical of many with foreclosure concerns. "A large number of properties in condo and homeowners associations have been taken over by banks, residents are just picking up and leaving their properties along with their commitments, and [there is the] added problem of people who continue to live in their properties while not paying maintenance fees."

For answers, we turned to a panel of local experts: Jan Bergemann, president of Cyber Citizens for Justice; Donna D. Berger, executive director of Community Advocacy Network (CAN) and managing partner at Katzman Garfinkel Rosenbaum; Gary A. Poliakoff, attorney with Becker & Poliakoff P.A. and professor at Nova Southeastern University's law school; William Raphan, supervisor of the state Office of the Condominium Ombudsman in Fort Lauderdale; and State Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami.

What are the insurance requirements for condo owners?

Many voiced concerns about complex and confusing condo and HOA laws and insurance requirements.

Here is what you need to know, says Raphan: Unit owners are required to carry homeowners insurance with property loss assessment coverage of no less than $2,000 per occurrence, and the association must have an additional named insured and loss payee. The association requires proof of a currently effective hazard and liability policy from each owner, and may purchase a policy on behalf of the owner if he or she does not provide a valid certificate of insurance.

Unfortunately, the statutes suggest associations may purchase an insurance policy on behalf of a noncompliant owner, but do not say they must do so, leaving association boards -- and their attorneys -- to figure out what to do for themselves.

Who will fix foreclosure banking flaws?

Robaina promised, along with other lawmakers in the audience, to clean up this statute problem and others, including laws related to foreclosure processes. Many condo owners and homeowners complain that banks are allowed to forestall foreclosures and skip paying their share of maintenance fees.

Robaina said lawmakers are aware of widespread problems, and they are among potential reforms to look out for next legislative session. No details yet of what can be done, but possibilities include requiring banks to pay fees sooner than the 12 to 18 months it typically takes now to complete a foreclosure.