By Christopher J. Russo, Former City Manager
(October 30, 2020) – Approximately 97% of residents live in one of more than 100 condominium buildings in Sunny Isles Beach, and we have received many requests to assist in condominium complaints and disputes. Though condominiums may be within our city limits, Florida law (chapter 718 FSS) and Florida rules (chapter 61B FAC) govern the operation of condominium associations. Our state legislature created the Condominium Ombudsman Office in 2004 as a means to avoid and ameliorate problems in condominiums before they escalate to an unreasonable level. We recognize that complaints and disputes within condominiums is an ongoing concern for many residents and we want to help facilitate your access to the State Ombudsman to help solve these issues.
At the January 2020 Commission Meeting, the City Commission voted to petition the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to have a representative of the Office of the Condominium Ombudsman provide services within our city. I’m happy to report that the DBPR will officially be bringing in an Ombudsman to City Hall every other Monday to meet with residents, associations, and board members effective November 9, 2020. Appointments must be made ahead of time by calling my office at 305.792.1909.
The mission of the Office of the Condominium Ombudsman is to improve the quality of life for Florida condominium owners through prompt, professional and courteous service as a neutral, informative and accessible resource. The Office, which is part of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, has three overarching functions: to investigate complaints, report findings, and work toward equitable settlements. In addition, they also monitor condominium elections, as misconduct during elections leads to significant complaints and costly disputes among unit owners.
Among other duties, the State Ombudsman office facilitates voluntary meetings between affected parties when the meetings may assist in resolving a dispute within a community association before the person submits a dispute for formal or administrative remedy; develops policies and procedures to assist unit owners; and acts as a resource for both the rights and responsibilities of unit owners, board members, and associations. Ultimately, the Ombudsman is a resource to provide a neutral and balanced perspective to address the competing interests in condominium law and regulation.
I want to say a big thank you to the DBPR who helped make this all possible. Director of the Division of Florida Condominiums, Boyd McAdams; Deputy Secretary of Business Regulation, Michael B. Johnston; and Secretary Halsey Beshears kept their word while coordinating this service and came through even during these trying times. Secretary Beshears has been working closely with the Governor during the pandemic and still managed to pull this off for our city.
You can read more information about the Ombudsman in Sunny Isles Beach at sibfl.net/ombudsman.