Law May Force Banks To Clean Up Condo Messes

Legislators Make A Last Ditch Effort To Assist Condo Owners

Article and Video Courtesy of 

CBS 4 -- Miami

Carey Codd Reporting

Published April 28, 2009

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Law Would Force Banks To Pay Condo Fees As Soon As They Foreclose


NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE (CBS4) ― Condo associations are feeling the crunch of the foreclosure crisis, leaving residents to live in filthy, unkempt buildings in many cases, but a new law may now take this burden off their shoulders. 


These are just a few of the problems caused by the condo foreclosure crisis in South Florida: garbage piled up, water shut off, lights turned off in the parking lot. 


Foreclosures are the culprit. As more and more unit owners slip into foreclosure, that means dwindling dollars for maintenance fees. Fewer dollars means less money to pay the bills for basic public services.

"It's very desperate," said Barbara Valcouit, who owns a condo in the Mirassou community in Northwest Miami-Dade, where the water was recently shut off. 

"We need the help desperately. The bank needs to come out and pay whatever they owe here." 


And banks are the crux of the problem, said State Representative Julio Robaina. 

Robaina tried to pass legislation this year forcing banks to pay 6 months of maintenance fees as soon as a foreclosure action is filed against a condo owner. Under current law, banks have to pay back maintenance fees after a foreclosure action is completed in the courts. That can take more than a year. 

"Our bill was getting a lot of opposition from the banking industry," Robaina said. "The bankers did not want to offer any type of relief." 

The effort is still alive in the Florida Senate, where an amendment is expected to be voted on Wednesday morning. The amendment would also force banks to pay 6 months of maintenance fees upfront, giving a cash flow to condo associations. If it passes the Senate, the Florida House would take up the measure later this week. 

"I'm hoping to get enough votes to pass it and get it to the Governor," Robaina said. 

Over the past few weeks, CBS4 has documented the growing problem at condos in South Florida. In Ft. Lauderdale we saw cockroaches, busted windows and evidence of drug use and squatters at the New River Condos on Sistrunk Avenue. Residents abandoned the former apartment complex several months ago after the trash service ceased and the water was shut off. 


In Miami, the power was shut off in the hallways, stairwells and parking garages at the Coral Gate Apartments. We're told nearly half of the 42 units are in some type of foreclosure. 

In Northwest Miami-Dade, the Mirassou Condo residents recently had their water shut off for non-payment of their bill. It was quickly turned back on after a Miami-Dade County Commissioner stepped in to assist. Dozens of units are in foreclosure and residents fear the problems will continue. 

"I just don't know the way out," Valcouit said. "If I could, I would get out. I wish I could leave, just fly the place. If I could I would do it in a minute. I'm just fed up. We need some help." 

Earlier this month more than 100 residents of the Mirassou Condominium were forced out of their homes after the county shut off their water.

Robaina said he wants to help but is being blocked by the powerful banking industry. He said it would be "catastrophic" if legislation did not get passed. 

"It's crunch time," he said. "It's either the Senate gets the amendment on there and we're able to offer some relief or the whole bill may die and there's nothing at all for the citizens of Florida this year."