Vol 7 No. 42 - July 11, 2007

What the new condo law
means to you
By Louise Bolger
sun staff writer

Last week we discussed the fairness of the proposed changes to the existing Save Our Homes state statute. This week, after celebrating the birth of our nation, it seems that more of our homeowners’ inalienable rights have been be taken away, again by the state of Florida.

At the end of June, Gov. Charlie Christ signed into law a bill stating that only 80 percent of condo owners in a condominium complex must consent to the sale of the property. This would override original condominium documents that might have been written at a higher sale percentage standard.

Senate Bill 314 states the following: Optional Termination – unless the declaration provides for a lower percentage, the condominium form of ownership of the property may be terminated pursuant to a plan of termination approved by at least 80 percent of the total voting interests of the condominium…..

The bill goes on to state that this does not apply if 75 percent or more the units are timeshare. It also covers "circumstances that may create economic waste, areas of disrepair, or obsolescence of a condominium property for its intended use and thereby lower property tax values."

According to the wording in the bill, the intention is to preserve the value of the property interests and the rights of owners.

OK, what does this all mean to you, the average condo owner? First of all take a look at your original condo documents, I suggest you do this early in the morning after a good night’s sleep and a cup of strong coffee. If you’re clever enough to find the section regarding voting rights and property sales, then you’ll know whether or not this new law has removed any of your property rights.

My condo documents state that to terminate the condominium association, as in the case of a sale, all owners need to agree, 100 percent. However, if there is destruction of two-thirds or more of the buildings then only a three -fourths vote is required to elect not to rebuild. In this case, the state is overriding my condo documents stating that 80 percent is sufficient to terminate the condominium association, removing some of the rights I agreed to when I purchased.

This being said, the reality is that getting even 80 percent of owners to agree to a sale, or anything else, isn’t easy. That combined with the current oversupply of condominium units on the market for sale isn’t making the market favorable for developers who may want to buy out older complexes for the land.

But this real estate market won’t be the same forever. Eventually the market will make a comeback. Anna Maria Island and surrounding waterfront areas have some of the oldest condominium complexes in the state that are sitting on some of the most desirable pieces of property in the state. The area is ripe for developers who are looking for waterfront property to build very upscale communities. This could really impact smaller condominium associations where obtaining approval from 80 percent of owners will be a lot easier especially if one owner has purchased several units as an investment.

Last year then Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed a similar bill, arguing that this law would diminish security in ownership of private property. I couldn’t agree more. Condominium living certainly entails some compromises, however, taking away existing rights and possibly reducing property values is too much of a compromise.

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