Monday, December 7, 2009

Florida as "the condo promised land"?

That was the description of our state given to me by a frustrated condominium owner living in Virginia. After dealing with Floridians' issues concerning mandatory community associations for a while now, it was a real revelation to hear an outsider's admiring take on us.

Jack wrote to me about the ongoing struggle he is having in his Reston, VA homeowners' association. Among other issues, the board president has apparently claimed the association's website as his own private turf. Jack also expressed concerns about the integrity of his community's annual election. I asked him if Virginia Statutes provided for a Condominium Ombudsman (to monitor the election) and he said the Office of the Common Interest Community Ombudsman was recently created there in 2008 but with relatively little enforcement authority.

In Florida, we certainly are a lot farther down the path than most other states with common interest ownership communities. We definitely have the lengthiest common interest statutes if not the clearest. We have the most organized advocacy groups and perhaps the most educated legislators on these issues. For $4.00 per unit, the following resources are supposed to be available to a condominium owner in the State of Florida: the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes (for education and enforcement), the Condominium Ombudsman (a neutral resource to defuse situations that might otherwise escalate to the point of needing the Division's investigatory resources) and a host of Select Committees designated at varying times by the Legislature to address condominium and homeowners' association issues.

Jack ended his email to me with the following sentiments: Florida may have problems but from what I see, you have more legislative "teeth" to protect the homeowners. I am jealous as to how much more "advanced" you are in FL.

It was nice to hear, for a change, that a citizen of another state looked at those of us living down here with envy rather than pity. I only hope someone from Montana (with its extremely concise and well worded Unit Ownership Act) doesn't write in to tell me we have it all wrong!

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