Florida Senate OKs criminal penalties for condo violations

State senator says some associations have become "mini dictatorships," "totalitarian regimes"

May.May 02, 2017 04:30 PM

Greater Downtown Miami

The Florida Senate unanimously approved a bill that would impose sweeping changes to condominium violations.

Senate bill 1682 imposes criminal punishments on violations that include fraud, falsifying information, failing to provide financial information, stealing, manipulating records and more. It was sponsored by Hialeah Republican Sen. René Garca and Miami Democrat José Javier Rodríguez, El Nuevo Herald reported. The bill is now headed to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk, and would become law on July 1.

On the Senate floor on Monday, Garcia said some homeowners’ associations had become “mini dictatorships” or “totalitarian regimes.” The legislation makes withholding condo information, to commit or cover up a crime, a felony.

Electoral fraud in condos, which is widespread in Miami-Dade, isn’t typically investigated by police and prosecutors because criminal penalties aren’t mentioned in the current statutes governing condos.

If Scott signs the bill, condo associations with more than 149 units will be required to publish password-protected financial reports online, board directors will be term-limited, and directors would not be allowed to receive money from their associations or be allowed to hire their relatives, according to El Nuevo Herald.

The newspaper, along with Univision, has been covering condo fraud as part of its “Condo nightmares” series. The Miami-Dade Police Department has been cracking down on fraud: last year, a former accounting assistant accused of stealing nearly $150,000 from a condo association in Kendall was arrested and charged with first-degree grand theft.

In a separate case, a former condo manager and two relatives pleaded guilty in October to theft-related charges tied to managing an older condo complex in North Bay Village. [Miami Herald] – Katherine Kallergis

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