Recently the Florida Times-Union has compiled a list of tips from city and state real estate sources and their contact information for homebuyers, specifically those looking to purchase a condo conversion. There are a few important steps that every consumer can take before and after a purchase agreement is signed.
Q: What are condo conversions?
Buildings that originally were constructed for uses other than residential condominiums. Some condo converters do little more than a cosmetic touch-up to the buildings, typically apartments, before selling the units to consumers. Others completely renovate the complex and replace roofs, plumbing or electrical systems.
Q: What should I look for when buying a condo conversion unit?
Be proactive. Ask questions. Make sure you know what you are buying and what the developer is promising to do – whether it’s a rehab of the roofing, electrical, plumbing systems or just a cosmetic touch-up. And get everything in writing: Verbal agreements don’t count.
Q: Where can I get more information about the developer? The Internet is a good source of information. Complaints filed against the developer or the property can be found on the Department of Business and Professional Regulation Web site at www.myfloridalicense.com or by calling (850) 487-1395. The city of Jacksonville’s building inspection Web site also lists violations and complaints. Go to Jacksonville.com, keyword: inspect. For more information about city building permits, call (904) 630-1100.
Q: What should I do once I sign a contract to buy a condo conversion unit?
Review your purchase agreement and condo documents. Florida law gives buyers of condo conversions a 15-day rescission period after signing a contract to review associated documents, which includes a property inspection report. That report, which is required by the state, will describe existing building conditions and estimate the remaining life of certain structural components like roofing, plumbing and electrical systems. Condo conversions are not new products, and you should treat your purchase like any resale purchase. Review warranty information, if any.
You might want to have your own professional engineer or home inspector review the documents. Before signing a contract, ask the developer if it is possible to bring a private home inspector to the final walk-through, and ask whether the inspector’s findings will be considered upon closing. It will be up to the seller what is allowed, but get those issues cleared up in writing before signing. A buyer can get a full refund if he or she changes her mind within the 15 days. After 15 days, the contract becomes binding.
Q: What can I do before closing the sale?
Prior to closing, buyers have a final opportunity to walk through the property and document things the developer will need to complete in a reasonable amount of time. Often, those things will not be completed before closing. That list of unfinished items can be brought to the closing table, added to the contract and signed by both parties. Try to get a specific deadline for which those issues will be taken care of – otherwise, it’s your word against theirs if the work is not done.
Q: What happens when the condominium is transferred to the homeowners association?
Associations should conduct an independent inspection of the property upon taking control of the condominium from the developer. This inspection report can serve as a baseline comparison for problems that may occur in the future. Although it is not required, for older properties, it might be worth having a plumber take a video and photos of the plumbing system beneath the property.
Q: Where can I file a complaint?
First, contact your developer or homeowners association, depending on who is in charge of the day-to-day operation of the condominium. Talk to your neighbors. If you’re having problems communicating with your property manager, you might not be the only one. And, if it comes to litigation, it is usually less costly and more convincing to file one lawsuit as opposed to multiple suits.
And get everything in writing. Make requests in writing, and ask to have responses or promises in writing. If you can’t, take detailed notes of the conversation.
Complaints can be filed with the city, the State Attorney’s Office or with the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
In Jacksonville, consumers can visit Ecare.coj.net or call 630-CITY (630-2489).
The consumer complaints department of the State Attorney’s Office often handles issues with home construction. The office works to mediate the problem.
For more information, visit Jacksonville.com, keyword: complaint, or call (904) 630-2075.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation takes complaints electronically at www.myflorida.com/dbpr (click on “File a Complaint”) or by phone at (850) 487-1395.
Q: What if I need a lawyer?
If litigation seems like the only option, you can call the Jacksonville Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at (904) 399-5780. The service typically costs $50 for a 30-minute consultation.
Q: How do I lobby for changes in condo law?
In 2004, the Legislature created the Advisory Council on Condominiums to take public input and recommend changes in condominium law. The council will meet from 1 to 6 p.m. Thursday in Jacksonville Beach City Council Chambers, 11 Third St. N., Jacksonville Beach. The public is welcome to attend.
For details, call Carol Windham of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation at (850) 488-1631 or visit Jacksonville.com, keywords: condo advisory.
The public can also e-mail comments to Condominium. AdvisoryCouncil@dbpr.state.fl.us or send a letter to:
Advisory Council on Condominiums
Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes
1940 N. Monroe St.
Tallahassee , FL 32399-1032