One Man Brings Change to Florida's Condo Laws

The change for the better is the direct result of the dogged efforts of one Tampa man.

Condominium associations have great authority over unit owners. In Steve Comley's case, he lost his dream half million-dollar condo unit when the association voted to change the rules on rentals.

The change deprived Steve from the income he needed to help pay the mortgage.

"We rent out our condo four months of the year. We get $7,200 a month. I mean it's not chicken feed," says Steve.

It took four years, but the Legislature voted to strengthen unit owners’ rights. If associations want to make a building non rental, owners who bought when rentals were allowed to keep that right.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Julio Robaina of Miami, says it would not have happened without Comley's efforts.

“If you have a unit and you had the right to rent it from the day you bought it, even if the association changes those bi-laws, you still have a grandfather clause," says Robaina.

Robaina says condo owners will also have better representation when disputes arise. The new law creates an ombudsman to mediate disputes. "It's a good day for people who live in condominiums in the state of Florida."

Still condo owners did not get everything that they wanted from the legislature. They will not have one vote for each unit they own in a building, and there won’t be term limits for association boards. The associations fought that idea tooth and nail.

Steve Comley says the changes are proof that the average guy can make a difference.

"I wanted to prove that the average citizen could come into the beltway here and make a difference, and get listened too," Comley adds.

The new law also requires that at least two thirds of the unit owners must approve a change in the rental policy of a building. The governor will have 30 days once he gets the legislation on his desk to decide if he will sign it.