Section involved in ‘Florida Condo Education Initiative’
Combine Real Property Probate and Trust Law Section legal power with a state public service program and add an ombudsman, and the result is the “Florida Condo Education Initiative.”
“We’ve been calling it the joint initiative,” said Sarasota attorney Telese Zuberer, co-chair of the Education Subcommittee of the Condominium and Planned Development Committee.
A joint effort of the Condominium and Planned Development Committee, the state Division of Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes, and the Office of Florida Condominium Ombudsman, the initiative offers condo residents free webinars that focus on the laws and regulations that govern their communities.
Interest in condominium governance has been high since the June 24 condominium collapse in Surfside that claimed 98 lives, Zuberer said.
“The more condominiums are in the news, good, bad, or tragedy, they tend to lead to more questions by owners,” she said.
The first webinar, “How to Obtain Condominium Records,” was September 14.
Zuberer, who has an advanced degree in real estate and land development, Sarasota attorney Douglas Christy, who is board certified in condominium and planned development law, and Spencer Hennings, a government lawyer who serves as Florida’s condominium ombudsman, were panelists.
Records requests are a frequent source of frustration for condominium residents, Zuberer said. Many condo associations will post records on a website, but some residents may have trouble accessing it.
That can lead to confusion and miscommunication, Zuberer said.
“So, expectations are not met, which leads to disappointment, which sometimes leads to anger, and you get an issue that is blown up into something that is bigger than it needs to be,” she said.
A second webinar, “There’s an App for That? – Condo Elections, Process, and Jurisdiction,” was held October 21.
It featured Hennings and the Division’s Education Section Supervisor, Laura Rodriguez, as well as Tampa attorney Shawn G. Brown and Hollywood attorney Alessandra Stivelman – both of whom are board certified in condominium and planned development law.
Zuberer said she and Education Subcommittee Co-Chair Alexander Dobrev of Orlando, have yet to decide a topic for a third webinar.
“It is our goal eventually to create one a month, and to create a list of both dates and topics so that we can start advertising them in advance,” she said.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation assembled the educational materials and built the platform for the education program, but audiences were slow to build before the initiative launched.
The first webinar drew some 125 participants, and about twice as many attended the second, Zuberer said.
“Compared to the number of attendees that have historically come out for these webinars, I would say that this is a very good start and a success,” she said. “I very much intend for this to grow.”
Zuberer promoted the program to the West Florida Chapter of the Community Associations Institute, where she is a board member and past president.
“It’s the largest chapter in Florida, with more than 1,000,” she said.
Douglas Christy, the subcommittee member and first webinar panelist, said community association practitioners bring a lot of experience to the table.
“Where DBPR comes at it from one angle, we can offer a different, battle hardened perspective,” he said. “We’ve been in the trenches, this is what we see, these are our suggestions, these are things to look out for, the law’s not clear on this, but here’s some things to consider.”