New condo law requires owners to buy insurance policy

Jan 5, 2009

Naples Daily News–January 3, 2009


NAPLES – Condominium owners in Florida are required to have a new type of insurance policy because of a law that took effect Jan. 1.

Homeowners 6 is a personal home insurance policy that insures contents within a condo that aren’t included in condo association insurance policies.

The requirement passed in the last session and was rolled into Florida’s Condominium Act.

“No one is enforcing this at present other than the association if it chooses to buy or ‘force place’ missing unit owner policies,” said Fort Lauderdale attorney Donna Berger, executive director of the Community Advocacy Network Community. “If the unit is rented, it is still the owner’s responsibility to comply and purchase (a Homeowners 6) policy that is up-to-date with the new requirements.”

To “force place” a policy means that the association would buy the policy for the owner who didn’t have one, and then hand him or her a special assessment for the cost.

Michael Vickers, association manager for the Pavilion Club Condominiums in North Naples, said that from a management standpoint, the new law “can be kind of a regulatory nightmare.”

“I have 156 units here,” Vickers said.

Few people in his association are aware of the changes in law. Some of the board members probably are.

“But with the price of insurance (these days) this type of (law) is kind of a tough nut,” Vickers said.

Likewise, he hasn’t a clue as to who is supposed to enforce the law.

Michelle Hebert is a condo owner in the Briar Landings at the Enclave in East Naples. The idea of government telling her she must have insurance is anathema to her.

“I don’t think it’s their business if we have insurance or not,” Hebert said. “We should be free to make our own decisions.”

One of the problems is insurers are having trouble understanding what the law means when they write policies, because this particular mandate “does not comport with insurance industry standards,” Berger said.

According to Florida Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, that language might be removed during the upcoming session.

Robaina has been actively involved in drafting and pushing through laws that he believes protect condo and homeowners from associations, which might be viewed as bullying.

“The Legislature will undoubtedly take away this (Homeowners 6 assessment) ability next year, which is a shame because in a healthy market it makes sense for associations to buy these policies and specially assess the owners for same,” Berger said.

According to Jan Bergemann, president of Cyber Citizens for Justice, a town hall meeting on community associations and homeowner association reform will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton on Jan. 31, and Robaina will be one of the panel members. Speakers and panel members also include Mark Benson, Regulatory Council of Community Association Managers; David Goldenberg, who will report key findings from Cyber Citizens for Justice’s recent survey; and attorney Barry Silver on “What To Expect If Battling Condo Commandos.”

Robaina is also expected to address the recent rash of foreclosures.