Condo Problems? The 'Ombudsman' Just Might be Able To Help

June 9, 2022

Now if you have ever dealt with a Condominium Board, you know how frustrating it can be sometimes. Who can help, where can you turn for assistance? Well the Office of the Condominium Ombudsman, just might be the answer.

In July of 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the appointment of Spencer Hennings as Florida’s Condominium Ombudsman. Now you ask yourself, just what is an Ombudsman? Well, the mission of the Office of the Condominium Ombudsman is to improve the quality of life for Florida Condominium Owners through prompt, professional, courteous service as neutral, informative and accessible resources.

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, such as misconduct during Elections which lead to significant complaints and costly disputes among Unit Owners.

What Exactly Are His Powers and Duties?
The Ombudsman acts as a liaison between the Division (Division of Business & Professional Regulation), Unit Owners, Boards Of Directors, Board Members, Community Association Managers and other affected parties. The Ombudsman develops policies and procedures to assist Unit Owners and other affected parties to understand their rights and responsibilities as set forth in Florida Statutes and the Condominium Documents governing their respective Associations. The Office will coordinate and assist in the preparation, adoption of educational and reference material, shall endeavor to coordinate with private or volunteer providers of these services, so that the availability of these resources is made known to the largest possible audiences.

Condo Elections
One of the best resources the Office of the Condominium Ombudsman can offer is Election Monitoring. In Condominiums, Unit Owners have no rights to run the Association or Property beyond voting for the Board. This makes Elections of the utmost importance. So, if you have concerns over your Condo Board Elections, there is help. If fifteen percent of the total voting interests in a Condominium Association or six Unit Owners, whichever is greater, petition the Ombudsman to appoint an Election Monitor to attend the Annual Meetings of the Unit Owners and conduct the Election Of Directors. The Ombudsman will appoint a division employee, a person or persons specializing in Condominium Election Monitoring or an Attorney licensed to practice in this state as the Election Monitor. All costs associated with the Election Monitoring Process will be paid by the Association. The Division will adopt a rule establishing procedures for the appointment of Election Monitors, the scope and extent of the Monitor’s role in the Election Processes.

Resolving Disputes
Another role for the Ombudsman is to encourage and facilitate voluntary meetings with and between Unit Owners and all affected parties. By encouraging these types of voluntary meetings, it can assist in resolving a dispute within a Community Association before a person submits a dispute for a formal or administrative remedy. It is the intent of the Florida Legislature that the Ombudsman Acts as a neutral resource for both the rights and responsibilities of the Unit Owners, the Associations and the Board Members.

Example For The City
In a recent article, 'Winston Towers 400 Condo Board Elections as an Example for our City' Commissioner Jerry Joseph discussed a recent Board Election within the City. The article was posted at: https://www.sibfl.net/winston-towers-elections/

Here is an excerpt from Commissioner Jerry Joseph’s Article:

"In January 2022, while I was a Candidate for Commissioner, I was contacted by several condo owners at Winston Towers 400 regarding certain practices being conducted by the Condo Board that did not adhere to their by-laws affecting their upcoming Board Elections. At the same time, the same condo owners contacted our Mayor and State Ombudsman, Spencer E. Hennings, Esq., whom, at the time, I was not familiar with."

"On March 30th, 2022, the Winston Towers 400 Election was conducted. Spencer Hennings and his team of watchers and counters arrived and had to unseat the counters that the current Board President had placed. I was proud to have been present, as a City Representative, outside watcher, to witness a FAIR Election in the process, leading to a FAIR process, regardless of the winners or losers. I commend Mr. Hennings, Karolina Betancourt and their team of watchers and counters for their excellence and professionalism throughout this arduous process."

How To Get Assistance
You may E-Mail your questions concerning your Condominium to the Ombudsman At: ombudsman@myfloridalicense.com. Or Call: (954) 202-3234. For Spanish Inquiries, Call: (954) 202-3235. The Office of the Condominium Ombudsman is located at 1400 West Commercial Boulevard, Suite 185-J, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33309.

In addition, the Condominium Ombudsman is available by appointment in The Sunny Isles Beach Government Center every other Monday and at The Miami Beach City Hall on Fridays. Contact: ombudsman@myfloridalicense.com. Or to schedule an appointment, Call: (954) 202-3234.

About Spencer Hennings
Hennings, of Miami, was an Associate at Irons Law Group, P.A. from 2019 until 2020. Previously, he was a Real Estate Intern with Greenberg Traurig, LLP, in 2009 and an Associate Attorney with Weitzner and Jonas, P.A. from 2017 until 2018. Hennings served as a Legal Intern with the Eleventh Judicial Circuit’s State Attorney’s Office in 2017 and as a Judicial Intern with the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida in 2016. Hennings earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy from Florida State University, his Juris Doctorate and Master’s Degree in Law in Real Estate Property Development from The University Of Miami.