Miami Herald: Dealing with tainted drywall

Mar 1, 2010

The Miami Herald published this article on March 1, 2010.


Relief for financially strapped condo and homeowners associations and Florida residents living with tainted Chinese drywall is on many people’s wish list for this legislative session.

The economic downtown that’s gripped Florida since late 2008 has put condo and homeowners associations in dire straits. Some associations have filed for bankruptcy, and many others are so strapped for cash that even paying monthly utility bills for common areas is in jeopardy at times.

There are some 50 legislative proposals on the table that could affect Floridians living in communities governed by condominium or homeowners associations. While some would hold lenders accountable for either a greater portion or all past-due assessments acquired during lengthy foreclosures, others would empower associations to collect rents directly from tenants or suspend common-area-use rights for delinquent owners.

A bill (SB 1272) introduced by Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, would increase the statutory cap for past-due assessments that lenders are required to pay after foreclosing on a condominium from six months to 12 months. If a bank doesn’t pay the maintenance fees, then the condo association could take on the responsibility of maintaining the bank-owned units and pass on the costs to lenders.

HB 329, sponsored by state Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, would allow community associations to collect rents from tenants and suspend both voting rights and common-area use for owners who haven’t paid their maintenance fees. It would also require lenders to complete foreclosure actions within one year and pay all past-due assessments once they foreclose on delinquent properties.

To protect already victimized homeowners, Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, has filed a bill (SB 500) to create rules for home inspections related to drywall and require companies that remove defective drywall to provide homeowners with a remediation plan. “This will help give guidance to companies who are all moving in different directions,” he said.

Another Aronberg bill (SB 498) would require the Florida Building Commission to work with the Department of Health to create standards that prevent the use of drywall that exceeds limits that would be established for emissions or sulfur and strontium compound content.

“If we don’t get anything through this session, it’s going to be another year. We’re talking about homeowners who are forced to live in these dangerous homes. They have nowhere to go. The only place to turn is to a trial lawyer,” he said. “We’re trying to bring some order to a dysfunctional system.”

SB 1532, sponsored by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, would establish specific standards for reverse mortgages as a way of protecting consumers from potential fraud or loans with punitive fees and penalties.