Jack Latvala bill protecting condo owners clears Senate committee

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A bill aimed at ensuring condo owners aren’t forced to sell their homes for pennies on the dollar unanimously passed the Senate Regulated Industries Committee Tuesday.

Senate Bill 1172 sponsored by Clearwater state Sen. Jack Latvala is a direct answer to an oversight in 2007 legislation that allowed investors buying condo units in bulk to scoop up control of condos and convert them into apartments. Remaining tenants were then forced to sell their units for pennies on the dollar.

That bill allowed the bulk buyers to vote to convert the complex into all rentals once they hit 80 percent ownership. The remaining owners were then left with no choice but to sell and often got low-balled.

Latvala’s bill requires the bulk-owners to pay fair market value for the condos when that happens.

“This is a serious problem that has not only impacted several of my constituents but Floridians all across the state,” Latvala said.  “It’s shameful that some people have used a loophole in Florida law to not only displace people, but give them a low ball price for their home.  This bill goes a long way in giving individual unit owners more of a voice in this bulk buying process.”

While the bill would do little to soothe the heartache associated with being forced from a home, the legislation would require owners to be paid either fair market value or 110 percent of the purchase price of the condo – whichever is greater. It would also require the buyer to pay relocation costs.

Other protections would be in place including giving unit owners more time to stay in their homes, protecting their association voting rights while the apartment conversion is being discussed and creates an 18-month waiting period for attempts to terminate an owner’s residence after such an effort has already been rejected. That final provision protects unit owners from harassment.

Latvala’s bill heads next to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Clearwater state Rep. Chris Sprowls has sponsored similar legislation that is pending in the House.

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