miami– The Florida State Attorney’s Office in Miami-Dade predicted “more arrests” in reference to the corruption case at a Hammocks Community Homeowners Association meeting during a meeting with area residents.
State Attorney Catherine Fernandez Rundle explained that, in addition to the arrest of five members of the board of directors, who are charged today with theft of close to two million dollars, money laundering and criminal conspiracy, in addition to 15 other charges, a detailed investigation will not be conducted. It’s over.
For several months, members of the Hammocks Community Homeowners Association, which brings together more than 6,500 households, have been protesting over alleged tax irregularities and questionable practices in the election of board members, as well as a 400% increase in monthly maintenance and service fees. complained about.
“You propose a state law that gives more authority on these issues. At this point in time, only the Department of Construction and professional regulation has authority over the election, nothing else. So you need some auditing requirements, some checks and balances. “We need experts to investigate these complex cases,” said Fernandez Rundal.
“Large homeowner associations should be regulated,” he insisted.
Over the years, various state legislators have proposed rules and regulations that would address complaints from members of homeowners and condominium associations who, in exchange for paying a monthly fee, have been denied access to cleaning, security and community amenities such as tennis courts and swimming pools. get some benefits of. Or park…
However, it was only five years ago under the impetus of then-Democratic Senator José Javier Rodríguez that it was possible to adopt a standard that partially regulates the activities of condominium associations and provides very limited funding for the investigation of irregularities.
“It’s been a long battle,” said attorney Luis Martinez of the Martinez & Associates law firm.
In fact, that law created the Office of Business and Professional Regulation Supervisory, with a branch at 8240 NW 52nd Terrace, Suite 303, in Doral, where condominium owners in Miami-Dade can bring their complaints or concerns about the administration of their associations. .
However, the scope of operations of that state unit is very limited given the low allocated budget, which limits the number of staff and supervisors.
“We do not understand why it is so difficult to enact a law that adequately regulates the operation of housing associations that imposes criminal sanctions for embezzlement of funds collected, election fraud and conflicts of interest,” he said.
As the next state legislative period begins on April 10, new bills may be introduced.
However, as of now, the existence of any regulatory project to be submitted is unknown.
“Helping condominium owners and neighborhood associations is imperative,” claimed attorney Martinez, who described the management of board member elections in several associations as “questionable.”
“What happened at Hammocks could have happened anywhere: indiscriminate rate hikes and questionable handling of funds,” he insisted.
“We hear complaints every day about additional payments of $100 and $200 in addition to the $200 or $300 that they have to pay every month, which was supposedly fixed a year ago,” he said. .