Pavilion from the Ocean

Pavilion from the Ocean

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This forum, by owners for owners, provides useful information for owners to view and discuss.

This blog does not belong nor represents the views of the Pavilon Condo Association

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South Florida home prices teeter upwards at slower rate

Home prices across the tri-county area increased by 6.8 percent in January compared to the previous year

South Florida outpaced by nine U.S. cities, including Tampa

Home prices across South Florida continued on an upward trajectory in January but at a smaller clip than in December, according to data released Tuesday.

Prices in the local housing market have increased 6.8 percent compared to January 2015. In December 2015, prices rose by 7.1 percent over the year prior, according to the Case-Shiller Indices, a closely watched housing market indicator. Month-to-month, home values in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties were up 0.4 percent over December.

“Any kind of slowdown that we’re experiencing in the market is a very healthy slowdown,” said Daniel de la Vega, president of One Sotheby’s International Realty. “Prices have gone up year over year, and it’s about time they level off a little bit.”

South Florida was outpaced by nine cities around the country in price increase, including Tampa and Seattle.

“Most of the fast-growing cities are out west, and all this reflects that we have faster growing incomes in the west,” said Kwame Donaldson, an economist at Moody’s Analytics. “These higher incomes are leading to home prices increasing. But Miami is still getting really good growth because home prices . . . are still well below what they were before housing bust.”

The Case-Shiller January results are in line with data released this month by Miami-Dade and Broward Realtors, which saw price increases in both single family and condo sales in February.
In Miami-Dade, February sales prices for existing single-family homes increased 6.4 percent, to $270,221 from $254,000 one year prior; the median sales price for condominiums rose by 9.5 percent that month, to $206,950 from $189,000, according to the Realtors.

In Broward, single-family home prices rose by 4.9 percent ($299,000, compared to $285,000 in February 2015). Townhouses and condos increased by 6.6 percent (to $136,500, compared to $128,050 in February 2015).

Donaldson and de la Vega predict a continued leveling and growth of the local housing market.

Luxury condo to break ground along Miami River

Project will be built on parcel of land purchased for record-breaking $125 million in 2014

Tower will feature 384 residential units

Tentatively called Epic 2

Despite reports of a softening condo market, a new one may be on the way along the Miami River.
Riverwalk East Development, led by German Coto of Argentine supermarket chain Coto, and his wife, Gloria, revealed plans to build a 70-story luxury condo at a Miami River Commission meeting on March 15, according to commission chairman Horacio Stuart Aguirre.

“What’s not to like? And the answer is, ‘Nothing!’” Aguirre said. “It will make a significant contribution to the city of Miami skyline.”

The project will be constructed at 300 Biscayne Boulevard Way on a 1.25-acre parcel of land the development firm bought in July 2014 for $125 million, a record high for a property of its size in South Florida.

The proposed 817-foot tower will include 384 residential units with 561 parking spaces.
Aguirre said the development will be home to “foreign buyers with big bucks.”
“It’s not families from Pinecrest coming to buy these condos,” he said. “I hope we have these buyers.”

The tower is tentatively dubbed Epic 2, after the site’s former moniker, Epic East. The 70th floor of the building, shaped like the sail of a boat, will feature a lighthouse.

“I call it ‘artistic architecture,’” Aguirre said. “As opposed to blasé, unimaginative square blocks they were building in the ’70s on Brickell. This is delightfully stylish.”

KNOW YOUR CONDO ACT: Is my association required to hold regular meetings on a monthly basis?

Every association must hold an annual meeting of the members and a budget meeting. There is no requirement in Chapters 718 or 719, Florida Statutes, for regular meetings of the unit owners or the board of directors. The documents of the association, however, should be reviewed for any such requirements. Note: if 20 percent of the voting interests in a condominium association petition the board to address an item of business, the board, within 60 days after receipt of the petition, shall place the item on the agenda at its next regular board meeting or at a special meeting called for that purpose. 

Condominium: Sections 718.112(2)(c), (d) & (e), Florida Statutes
Cooperative: Sections 719.106(1)(d) & (e), Florida Statutes

We Need this NOW! - Online Voting System!

Becker & Poliakoff launches New Online Voting System! 

Today is a very exciting day as we announce the launch of BPBALLOT, the proprietary online voting software system developed by the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff.

It has been almost 9 months since Florida law was changed on July 1st, 2015 to allow members in all types of community associations in Florida to cast votes online rather than using paper proxies and ballots. BPBALLOT represents a sea change for communities throughout Florida who have struggled for years or decades to encourage member participation in votes to elect directors, amend the governing documents, waive reserves, approve material alterations, etc.

For communities with significant out of state (and out of the country) owners, BPBALLOT will allow those members to be more engaged with their communities. Other benefits can include fraud prevention, cost effectiveness and the ability to cut down significantly on the time it takes managers and boards to handle membership votes..

The Miami Herald recently ran an investigative series on association voter fraud uncovered in two Miami-Dade communities. In one condominium they had 115% voter turnout and in the other they uncovered more than 80 forged signatures on ballots. The reality is that if you do not have paper ballots, you do not have the ability to forge a signature or tamper with a ballot box. While online voting will not appeal to everyone, it does represent the ability to use technology to overcome some of the problems which have plagued associations in Florida for far too many years.

For more information about BPBALLOT please visit

UPDATE : Construction debris including small fragments of glass found in our beach

Sand Restoration Again?  Who messed up?

From our previous post:

"...the material was placed, construction debris including small fragments of glass, tile and concrete were found at the northern portion of the beach renourishment area.  The state would not allow any material to be removed from the beach during turtle nesting season (May 1 to October 31). Now that turtle nesting season to a close,  FDEP is requiring that the Chateau Ocean Group remediate any impacts to the state owned beach."


By Jan Bergemann

The Florida legislature tried, but the Florida Supreme court surely didn’t agree.
According to the Florida Supreme Court there are no equal rights created by the legislature, if the governing documents don’t contain the few magic words: as amended from time to time.”

What a big difference a few words can make.

The story started in 2007, when State Representative Julio Robaina filed HB 1373, answering the calls from many condo owners who complained that a small amount of commercial owners had more voting powers than all the private owners together. Their main issue: Lots of the owners’ maintenance fees were used for the benefit of the commercial owners. The bill passed, but the commercial owners filed a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court. And the Florida Supreme Court upheld the “holy” contract right, much to the dismay of millions of owners of property in community associations.

The Supreme Court’s ruling: Only if the governing documents of the association contain the words “as amended from time to time” can newly enacted laws be applied for associations already in existence at the time when the bill was enacted by the legislature.
Julio Robaina’s comment after the commercial owners filed the “GRAND” lawsuit: “We heard so many complaints from owners that we thought it's high time to file this bill. But as soon as owner-friendly laws are enacted the industry sues."
I guess that sums up the fate of family’s living in associations.

I guess you all know what happened after the RULING OF THE SUPREME COURT, but do you know how it all started? If you want to read the whole story, please click here:

Miami Herald Editorial: Crack down on condo association abuses

An el Nuevo Herald investigation has uncovered condo association abuses

At one condo in Fontainebleau Park, elections may have been rigged

Residents allege their complaints to authorities often go unheeded

Allegations of fraud by condominium associations in South Florida is nothing new, but the latest case to come to light is shocking in its scope.

And it reveals something else: That investigation into such abuses by local authorities is too infrequent, and many condo residents are left frustrated without the help of the agencies created to protect them.

Last week, el Nuevo Herald reporters Brenda Medina and Enrique Flor, focused the spotlight with their in-depth investigation into possible fraud at The Beach Club condo complex in Fontainebleau Park and other condos in South Florida.

The probe, conducted with the help of Univision 23, uncovered numerous complaints filed by Beach Club residents alleging disturbing irregularities in the administration of their condo complex.

Among the most egregious discoveries is the forging of signatures of up to 84 condo owners — many linked to an election held last November to select Beach Club board members.

The reporters also found that the board awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to a company for complex roof repairs without a proper bidding process, as required by law. Get this: The companies that were listed as offering competing bids were fictitious, el Nuevo’s investigation found.

Days after the first installment was published, Miami-Dade police announced that it is launching an investigation into the allegations of fraud at The Beach Club, which is west of Miami International Airport.

This marks progress, because, in the past, authorities have ignored complaints from several residents of the complex — that’s another one of the series’ findings.

Now, the el Nuevo Herald investigation has laid groundwork for any official probe.

The allegations leveled against The Beach Club association are detailed among hundreds of complaints filed in 2015 by owners of condominiums in Miami-Dade and Broward counties with the Department of Business Regulation and Professional (DBPR), the state agency that oversees the condos in Florida.

It’s not surprising. There are almost 1.6 million condos in the entire state, 38 percent of them in Miami-Dade and Broward.

Authorities now need to get to the bottom of the alleged abuses and give the residents of The Beach Club some answers as to if, and how, they were defrauded, deceived and denied proper representation by their condo association.

Especially troubling is the falsification of owners’ signatures, which tilted the results of the board elections, a criminal offense.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro is calling for the creation of an elite unit, including police departments, assigned to curb abuses by condo associations. The series reveals that such a dedicated watchdog unit is sorely needed.

But in the case of The Beach Club, both Miami-Dade police and state prosecutors must take a strong stand and respond quickly to complaints of irregularities that some residents say have fallen on deaf ears for years.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle can, and should, impanel a grand jury to focus on condo-association abuses. And the state should also exercise stricter supervision.

Most important, any wrongdoers unearthed should be prosecuted. Condo owners should be assured of the integrity of the associations meant to represent them.

EXCLUSIVE: City of Miami trying to form an elite group to prosecute faruds in condominiums

Commissioner proposes to create an "elite" group" to investigate fraud in condos

The group will be integrated by the police department throughout Miami-Dade

Funcionarios del condado Miami-Dade están considerando la la creación de un equipo especial para analizar y combatir los problemas de fraude en los complejos de condominios.

La iniciativa del comisionado Bruno Barreiro surge tras el pobre accionar de las autoridades frente a la avalancha de quejas de irregularidades en condominios de Miami-Dade, las cuales fueron reveladas esta semana en una serie especial de el Nuevo Herald y Univisión 23.

“Estamos viendo cómo se puede crear un grupo especial para ver qué cambios se necesitarían a nivel de la ley estatal para darles poderes a las comunidades locales, a los municipios, y condados, para hacer cumplir las leyes en los condominios”, dijo Barreiro en su oficina de La Pequeña Habana. “Las personas que se están aprovechando del sistema saben que no hay los recursos necesarios a nivel del estado y no se están llevando a cabo las investigaciones”.

Barreiro indicó que la propuesta buscará la participación de departamentos policiales de municipios con una importante concentración de complejos habitacionales en Miami-Dade.

El comisionado dijo que la iniciativa cobra relevancia debido a que la tendencia de desarrollo urbano local apunta a que una gran parte de la población se concentre en este tipo de complejos habitacionales con centenares de apartamentos.

Barreiro enfatizó que la iniciativa busca asumir un liderazgo condal en la lucha contra el fraude de condominios en Miami-Dade ante la creciente indignación de propietarios que se quejan de no encontrar soluciones a pesar de las denuncias presentadas ante el organismo responsable del tema: el Departamento de Regulación de Negocios y Profesionales de la Florida (DBPR).

Un análisis realizado por el Nuevo Herald y Univisión 23 indica que de las 81 quejas de Miami-Dade del 2015, que aún se encuentran bajo investigación del DBPR, 31 son por falta de acceso a información a la que los propietarios tienen derecho.

Otras 27 quejas corresponden a irregularidades en la elección de los representantes de las asociaciones, precisamente aquellos que son responsables de dar el visto bueno a contratos por servicios en los condominios; y nueve casos obedecen a malos manejos financieros. El resto de las quejas van desde el uso de fondos y reservas sin autorización, hasta las disputas por multas, entre otras.

Miami-Dade es el condado que concentra la mayor cantidad de quejas por irregularidades y fraudes en la administración de condominios en la Florida, de acuerdo con DBPR. De 1,908quejas recibidas en el 2015, en Miami-Dade se reportaron 566. El sur de la Florida es el área con la mayor cantidad de condominios en todo el estado.

La portavoz de DBPR, Chelsea Eagle, dijo que esa entidad tiene una serie de limitaciones para investigar las irregularidades, por lo que sus pesquisas se enfocan en disputas electorales, acceso a los registros de la asociación y a controversias financieras en los condominios.

“Sin embargo, la División cuenta con un programa de arbitraje que sirve como una alternativa cuasi judicial al sistema de cortes de la Florida para hacer frente a las disputas relacionadas a los conflictos no financieros que involucren a apartamentos específicos y la aplicación de los reglamentos de la asociación”, dijo Eagle.

Solo en el 2015, un total de 590 casos del estado de la Florida han sido sometidos a arbitraje.

Uno de los casos que se encuentra en proceso de arbitraje es el del condominio Los Sueños, en Hialeah, donde se registró un insólito resultado en las elecciones de noviembre, al registrarse la participación del 115 por ciento de las personas elegibles para votar.

En otra queja presentada ante DBPR, un grupo de propietarios de The Beach Club at Fontainebleau Park han denunciado de la falsificación de decenas de firmas en las boletas de votación. La irregularidad fue advertida por un monitor del DBPR durante la misma jornada electoral, pero a pesar de las quejas por el fraude, las elecciones fueron validadas.

Ningún caso referido a la fiscalía

El jefe de la policía de Miami-Dade, Juan Pérez, expresó su respaldo a la creación del equipo especial propuesto por el comisionado Barreiro para luchar de manera efectiva contra el fraude en los condominios.

“Como departamento de policía del condado estamos dispuestos a investigar y a trabajar con el comisionado Barreiro en la creación de una fuerza policíaca para combatir este tipo de fraudes con más eficiencia”, dijo Pérez a el Nuevo Herald. “Pondremos mayor énfasis en la lucha contra este tipo de fraude”.

Pérez coincidió en que el trabajo con departamentos de otros municipios permitirá multiplicar la fuerza policíaca para investigar los numerosos casos de fraude detectados en los condominios de Miami-Dade: desde la masiva falsificación de firmas para las elecciones de los miembros de las juntas directivas hasta los malos manejos financieros.

Ballots are Official Records and May be Inspected by Condominium Owners

Question: At our recent annual meeting there was a very contentious vote on whether the association should update the clubhouse. The vote failed. Now certain owners who were in support of the project have requested to inspect the proxies. These documents show how every owner voted. Are other owners allowed to see this information? It seems that should be private. N.U. (via e-mail)

Answer: Yes. Annual meeting materials, including ballots and proxies, are “official records” that are available for inspection by every unit owner and must be maintained for one year from the date of election, vote or meeting to which the document relates. Any unit owner has the right to inspect and copy the association’s official records, subject to certain exceptions for documents protected by privacy laws.

The same rule applies in the homeowners’ association context, except that election and meeting materials must be kept for a period of seven years.

URGENT: Construction debris including small fragments of glass found in our beach

TO:                         Mayor Philip Levine and Members of the City Commission

FROM:                   Jimmy L. Morales, City Manager

DATE:                    March 14, 2016

SUBJECT:             Beach Remediation Project—  53rd to 59th Street

The purpose of this Letter to Commission is to provide an update on the sand placed in the 53 Street to 59 Street and the associated remediation.  The Chateau Ocean will begin beach remediation this week once they have obtained the required right- of-way permit.

In April 2015, the Chateau Ocean located at 9365 Collins Avenue, Surfside was required per their Florida Department of Environmental Protection ( FDEP) Coastal Construction Control Line Permit   ( DA- 647)   to 20, 900 between relocate cubic of yards material approximately 53 Street and 58 Street.   This location was selected because of the severe approximately erosion along the southern stretch of the placement site.

Once the material was placed, construction debris including small fragments of glass, tile and concrete were found at the northern portion of the beach renourishment area.  The state would not allow any material to be removed from the beach during turtle nesting season (May 1 to October 31). Now that turtle nesting season to a close,  FDEP is requiring that the Chateau Ocean Group remediate any impacts to the state owned beach.

 Attached is information Moffat Nichol,  the by provided and coastal and engineering hired the Chateau Ocean LLC to by provide oversight of the environmental consultant Moffat and Nichol will be hand- delivering this notice to all condominiums on remediation work.  the- east and west side of Collins from 53 Street to 59 Street. The City of Miami Beach will also send the attached notice via email to the condominium associations in this area

Staff will continue to monitor this situation and to advocate for expeditious resolution within the state permitting guidelines and turtle nesting season schedule.

Multiple South Florida condos under state investigation for election fraud

In 2015, Miami-Dade recorded the highest number of complaints of irregularities and fraud in the administration of condos of any county in Florida

El Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 launched its own investigation after allegations of fraudulent ballots at several South Florida condominiums

At one Hialeah condo, a 2015 vote received 115% participation of owners; at The Beach Club at Fontainebleau Park, dozens of apartment owners claim their signatures were falsified

Nurse Virgilia Corcés is certain she did not vote in the election for the board of directors of her condominium, The Beach Club at Fontainebleau Park in northwest Miami-Dade. She was busy those days, taking care of her father who is ailing with cancer.

Nevertheless, a vote with her signature turned up in the ballot boxes at a ballroom on Flagler Street where the election was held — as did the votes of dozens of apartment owners who now claim their signatures were falsified.

“That’s not my signature,” said Corcés. “That’s a fraud.”

Four days earlier and 10 miles away in Hialeah, an election at the Los Sueños condo resulted in an unprecedented tally: 115 percent of the owners voted.

Another Hialeah complex, Bella Venezia, didn’t even hold an election in 2014. The reason, given to one owner by the company that administers the apartments, was to “save money.”

“Sometimes, in an effort to save money (and BV needs every penny) we commit violations,” the administrator wrote to an owner who had complained about the lack of an election.

The allegations of electoral irregularities at The Beach Club, Los Sueños and Bella Venezia are just part of the hundreds of complaints submitted in 2015 by condo owners in Miami-Dade and Broward to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), the state agency that supervises condo operations.

With nearly 1.6 million condos in Florida — 38 percent of them in Miami-Dade and Broward — the state has long faced many difficulties combating fraud and bribes to members of the board of directors and the administrative companies that they hire. For decades, there have been efforts to strengthen the state laws, but the application of those laws has been inconsistent. And since the Great Recession, when the budgets for the state and local regulatory agencies and state prosecutors faced massive cutbacks, the challenges have been increasing.

The condo market is now booming again in South Florida. Giant cranes dot the horizon along Biscayne Bay, the beaches and growing cities like Doral, which have approved several new mega-projects. But will Florida be able to respond to the demands for growth while protecting condominium owners?

Frustrated condo residents say they have few options. Local police agencies say that most of the complaints do not involve criminal activities and can be handled in civil courts. Prosecutors say police or the DBPR are responsible for enforcing the laws, but the state agency argues that it cannot investigate complaints about actions that fall outside its jurisdiction or that lack sufficient evidence.

After receiving several complaints in recent months from residents alleging financial mismanagement, lack of transparency and electoral fraud in condominiums, el Nuevo Herald and Univisión 23 launched an investigation.

Their findings included at least 84 fraudulent signatures on ballots for the board of directors at The Beach Club.

From the more than 500 complaints filed with the DBPR by condo owners in Miami-Dade in 2015, the investigative team focused on the 81 cases still under state investigation.

Of those, 27 involved alleged irregularities in elections to boards of directors — people who approve lucrative contracts for the condos and 31 involved a lack of access to information that owners have a right to obtain under state laws. Another nine cases involved allegations of financial mismanagement. The rest involved the unauthorized use of reserve funds, disputes over fines and other issues.

Miami-Dade recorded the highest number of complaints of irregularities and fraud in the administration of condos of any county in 2015, according to the DBPR. Out of 1,908 complaints received statewide, 566 were filed in Miami-Dade.

Elections at Fontainebleau

The alleged electoral fraud at The Beach Club may be one of the biggest scandals under investigation by the DBPR.

After the votes were counted on Nov. 24, Wilfredo Zayas, Guillermo Merique and Ivonne Andrade were declared the winners.

El Nuevo Herald tried to contact the three directors several times during the last three weeks of February. Zayas and Andrade did not reply to requests for interviews. Merique said only that the problems at the condo stemmed from previous boards of directors, but declined comment on possibly fraudulent signatures on the November ballots.

The lawyer for the owners’ association, Hector Martinez, declined comment because of attorney-client confidentiality.

Zayas was first elected to the board in November of 2014. Shortly afterward, the board entered a contract with Florida’s Property Management Group Corp. (FPM), a company that in recent years has been accused of bad management by owners of other condos. State records show the company was declared inactive in November of 2015.

But before it was deactivated, FPM vice president Juan Awais created Sunshine Management Services, LLC, which assumed several of the FPM contracts, including those of the Beach Club and Los Sueños condominiums, said Sunshine administrator Juliet Siglier.

Sunshine stored all the documentation on the controversial election at The Beach Club at its Miami Lakes office. At least four condo owners went to the office in December and January to review the documents.

“I asked for access to the documents because by law they are required to preserve them for only one year … and to be honest I was convinced that there had been fraud in the balloting,” said Katherine Castro, a resident who was a candidate in the election. She was ruled to have lost. “I asked for the envelopes and made about 2,000 photographs, and you could clearly see that there were fraudulent signatures.”

El Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 contacted 92 of the more than 500 owners recorded as having voted. Eighty four of them expressed concern after confirming that their signatures had been blatantly falsified on the ballot envelopes submitted for the condo elections.

Among the owners who said their signatures were faked was Pamela Silva Conde, host of Primer Impacto, a Univisión news program, and political campaign consultant Sasha Tirador.

Tirador said that on the night of the election she was alerted that two votes with her signature had turned up in the ballot boxes. She immediately went to the party room where the ballots were being counted.

“There was one ballot that said Sasha Tirador, but it was not my signature,” said Tirador. “Unfortunately, the institutions where we can report these types of crimes do not investigate them.”

On the night of the election, one key witness documented the irregularities: Tomás Rementería, a monitor appointed by the DBPR’s Office of the Condominium Ombudsman.

Rementeria reported to the Ombudsman’s office that 542 votes had been received from the owners of 712 apartments.

From that seemingly massive turnout, 103 votes were thrown out, including 57 because there were two ballots from the same owner and 26 for adulterations confirmed by the voters themselves. The remainder came from open envelopes or from people not authorized to vote.

The fraud was so evident that Dolores Fernandez, one of the four people in charge of counting the votes, told El Nuevo Herald that she saw that her own signature had been falsified.

From fraud to apathy

On Nov. 20, the election at the Los Sueños condo in Hialeah saw 115 percent of the owners participate. That is, 457 votes were cast in a complex of 396 units — in an election where each unit had only one vote. Half the 457 votes were thrown out, including 174 that were duplicate votes, according to Monica Hidalgo, a monitor contracted by the owners’ association.

The tally gave Arelys López her seventh year as president of Los Sueños, a condo that like The Beach Club is administered by Sunshine.

After the astonishing vote tally, the group of owners that lost the election filed a complaint to the DBPR.

José Guerrero and María Porras, owners who challenged the López presidency, declined comment on the alleged falsification of signatures. But attorney Guillermo Mancebo, who represents Guerrero, alleged in the complaint that the election was fraudulent.

“The association falsified ballots as well as sworn declarations designed to disqualify the votes of members who oppose the persons elected as association directors, in an inappropriate manner, and critics of the (Sunshine) administration company,” said Mancebo.

When an el Nuevo Herald reporter asked López if she was comfortable with her victory in an election where 115 percent of the eligible voters cast ballots, she replied that holding a new election would only “spend more money,” and added that the fraud was carried out by the candidates that lost.

At the other extreme, the Bella Venezia condominium did not hold elections in 2014, arguing that it wanted to “save money” even though that violated state laws and the condo’s own regulations.

Elena Soutullo, who owns two apartments in the complex, there were also no elections held between 2010 and 2013.

Rosario Gonzalez, an official of Neighborhood Property Management, Inc., a Hialeah company that administers the complex, said that in those years there were fewer than five candidates for the five board of directors slots, so reelections were automatic.

Soutullo and other owners filed a complaint to the DBPR in August of 2014, but have received no reply. Soutullo then elevated her complaint to the Florida Inspector General in April of 2015. The investigation was reopened.

“The DBPR discovered that the condo had no (cash) reserves. Without consulting the owners, they had been using it (reserves) for daily expenses,” said Soutullo.

Amid the complaints, the condo held new elections on Dec. 7. Nineteen of the 72 owners participated and for the eighth year elected Aurelio Martinez, who declined to comment for this report.

Falsifications at The Beach Club

The investigation by el Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 of The Beach Club election found that at least 20 signed votes were mailed from the main U.S. Postal Service office in Miami on the same day, Nov. 19. Those envelopes had no return names or addresses.

One of those ballots was signed in the name of Mónica Espinosa, an accountant who that day happened to be vacationing in Venice, Italy.

“I never sent any vote by mail,” said Espinosa, who showed reporters her U.S. passport, with entry and exit stamps from the Rome airport, and some of her vacation photos. “On the 19th (of November) I was very happy, taking a tour on a gondola. What frustrates me is that my signature was falsified, and I think that whoever did this are criminals.”

Other questionable signatures were from owners who rent their apartment and do not usually participate in the condominium elections. Several live in Texas, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

“It’s the first time that something like this happens to me, and I imagine that it’s something that carries criminal penalties,” said Jose Mera, a businessman who lives in the Dominican Republic. He said he bought The Beach Club unit e`ight years ago to rent it and never participates in its elections.

At least one person, Paola Silvestri, filed a complaint about the fraudulent signatures with the Miami-Dade Police department. Silvestri said her complaint never got beyond a police report, even though under Florida law it’s a crime to falsify signatures.

“They did nothing!” said Silvestri. Her mother, Aliria Stoppa, owns the unit. She lives in Venezuela.

Under state law, falsifying a signature is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000.

“This is happening everywhere in the state, but Miami-Dade county is the capital of fraud in the (condo) associations,” said Julio Robaina, who led a fight in favor of condo owners when he was a state representative from 2002 to 2010. He now owns a condo administration company.

A DBPR spokesperson, in an email sent in November, said complaints are investigated “if there is a reasonable suspicion that a violation of the law took place.”

“In general, this means that the complainant provides evidence supporting the probability that a violation has taken place,” wrote Chelsea Eagles, DBPR director of communications. “If the complainant simply suspects that there’s something wrong or assumes that an illegal action has taken place, we urge them to access and review the official records of the association for evidence to support the complaint. In the absence of any evidence of a violation of the law, the complaint is closed without further action.”

That was not the first time that an election at The Beach Club had been marred by alleged irregularities.

In 2014, the monitor Rementeria reported that more than 100 votes had been thrown out, 36 of them because there were two ballots from the same owner.

“The number of double ballots was significant,” Rementeria wrote in the report he submitted to the state.

The report added that two of the owners who took part in the election found that someone else had already voted under their names. The two owners were able to verify that their signatures on the votes cast had been falsified.

“In both cases, the falsified votes came from the box of ballots submitted by Mrs. Carlín Castillo,” Rementeria wrote in his report.

Castillo told el Nuevo Herald and Univisión 23 that she was not responsible for the fraudulent ballots.

“Anyone interested in messing with the elections could have done it,” Castillo said. “We never learned who put in those double votes … I myself was not going to disgrace a process in which for the first time a monitor from Tallahassee was taking part in our election, and in which I myself picked up some of the ballots because we needed to change the board of directors and the administration company.”

Miami, Fort Lauderdale jobs steady despite global downturn

Unemployment decreased across South Florida

Statewide unemployment decreased overall

Florida “still on that road” to recovery

When Latin America quakes, South Florida braces for aftershocks.

In January, at least, the region’s workforce was spared. Across Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, job growth remained steady, according to a monthly report released Monday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

“Brazil is in its worst recession since 1901. Canada is struggling with growth. [Local jobs] didn’t really show any of those ill effects,” said Sean Snaith, an economist at University of Central Florida. “But whether that continues to be the case is something we’re watching for.”

Unemployment in Miami-Dade fell to 6 percent in January, down from 6.1 percent in December and 6.4 percent in January 2015. Broward had an even larger year-over-year decrease, down to 4.7 percent in January from 5.5 percent one year prior.

The South Florida labor pool grew by about 26,000 people compared to January 2015. Employment also increased, from 2,841,525 to 2,884,964.

Manuel Lasaga, president of economic consultancy firm StratInfo and a professor of finance at Florida International University, said the strength is a spillover effect of the national economy’s upswing.

“The U.S. is the best performing economy in industrialized economies today . . . it should be an incentive for people who have temporairly left the labor force to get back into the swing of things,” he said.

Overall, unemployment in Florida also dropped, falling to 5 percent in January from 5.1 percent in December and 5.7 percent in January 2015.

“Consumers are spending more freely,” UCF economist Snaith explained. “Low gas prices helped that.”

Mason Williams, managing director and CIO of Coral Gables Trust Company, emphasized that the housing market is solid, despite reports that growth and sales are softening.

“Can’t keep goin’ in a straight line forever, so [the real estate market is] leveling off but not trending down in any way, shape or form,” Williams said. “Numbers coming out for the rest of the year on employment should continue to be suggestive of a viable real estate market, pending any surprises.”

South Florida, he added, continues to be in high demand for primary and secondary homes.

It was a strong year for construction, finance and the category of white-collar workers that includes lawyers, accountants and architects. Education and health services also grew at a good clip. Tourism, trade and retail, however, all grew at slower rates, likely due to global downturn, Snaith said.

South Florida has been resilient to foreign turmoil because of a hearty national economy, according to Mekael Teshome, an analyst at PNC Bank who covers Florida.

“The U.S. is the major engine of the global economy right now, at least among the major economies. And that’s been a tremendous asset for us in South Florida,” Teshome said. “As we have other parts of the U.S. continue in their economic expansions, it means more and more retirees are able to sell their homes and come to Florida. That’s really what’s buffering the weakness from overseas.”

Today’s report also brought final numbers for the previous year.

There were no major revisions, with the exception of the Miami-Dade unemployment rate of January 2015, which was revised from 6.1 up to 6.4 percent, and the rate in June 2015, which was revised down from 6.5 to 6.1 percent.

The Miami-Dade unemployment rate hovered around 6 percent all year, at a time when unemployment rates in Broward and Florida continue to fall. So our recovery has basically stalled because of global economic conditions. Things aren't getting worse. But this may be the best they get.

“Florida’s economy, by my reckoning, went into recession before the national economy did,” Snaith said. “We had a longer road to go down to go back to full health in the labor market, and we’re still on that road despite the low unemployment rate.”

Miami's fabulous condo boom is turning into a glut

Home prices overall are still rising in Miami and surrounding cities. The median price jumped 11.6% in January from a year ago, to $240,000. But according to real estate broker Redfin: unit sales plunged 11.9% from a year ago. The fourth month in a row of declines.

It wasn’t because the market was low on inventory: after an enormous and ongoing construction boom, 6,000 new listings hit the market in January, based on data on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This pushed inventory up to the highest level recorded in “at least” two years.

This already high number of “new listings” may be under-reporting the true number with a sleight of hand: the number of new condos, according to Redfin, “is difficult to measure and may be much higher than what is recorded in industry data, because developers tend to list only a sample of available units on the MLS.”

And most of these units “come in the form of high-end beachfront condos.”

Given the decline in sales and the rise in inventory (however under-reported), the supply of all homes in the Miami metro area has jumped to 6.9 months, and “the balance of power has shifted into buyers’ favor.”

But those overall numbers, as unpleasant as they may seem for sellers, cover up an ugly reality for condos.

After the housing bust, developers once again embarked on a new construction frenzy, this time not for the downtrodden, over-indebted, and underpaid American proletariat, but for wealthy foreign buyers, mostly from South America and Europe, who were lured by the then beaten-down dollar that made those units cheaper for them. And…
Developers were further bolstered by the fact that these eager foreign buyers were willing to put 50% down to pre-purchase new units, which was commonplace until late last year when foreign markets began to waver.
Now the dollar has risen sharply against these currencies, and condos have gotten a whole lot more expensive for foreign buyers. Buyers from oil producing countries are grappling with the consequences of the oil price plunge on their own wealth. The messy swoon of stock markets around the world doesn’t help. And now these folks have another worry: declining resale prices of condos.
So foreign buyers are staying away in droves, at the worst possible time, just when a flood of new units are nearing completion, and just when previous buyers are trying to cash out by dumping their units on the market. Redfin:
Inventory in the Miami market is an unusual combination of the remaining condo units that weren’t pre-purchased, and a large stock of condos already back on the market for resale by foreign investors looking to cash out on their investments.
“This cooling demand has pushed a few developers to cancel projects or turn them into rental properties, while others have lowered their deposit requirements in an effort to entice foreign buyers back to the market,” explained Redfin agent Aaron Drucker.

Now developers are trying to get the wealthy Chinese to show interest in the Miami market, which they haven’t so far. These are the very Chinese that everyone is expecting to prop up every housing bubble in North America, from Toronto to Southern California, where locals, with their limited means, have trouble even buying a starter shack. And now Miami developers too are trying to get on the buy list of the wealthy Chinese. But it might not solve the problem:
But despite developers’ efforts to secure new foreign investors and regain the ones who have retreated, Miami’s condo inventory will likely continue to grow as more projects reach completion and new properties sit on the market.
The problem is that there’s now a mismatch between where development is currently focused and where the demand is greatest.
Many of Miami’s condo buildings aren’t even an option for local buyers, who cannot afford the price point because these condominiums also require a large down payment of 25% or more. That’s pushing more local buyers to the single-family home market, but their options are sparse since new development in that sector has stalled.
So these local buyers that cannot afford any of these thousands of vacant condos built for wealthy foreign buyers are trying their luck in the single-family home market, where they’re confronted with tight inventories and soaring prices.
In nearby Hialeah, for example, inventory is down 14.4% and new listings are down 14.6% for the year, while prices have risen 15.4% to $180,000.
“What’s concerning is that on top of stagnant wages and slow job growth, a shortage of single-family inventory will continue to push the price of houses up this year,” said Drucker, even as the condo market is confronted with a “small price correction.”

So among Miami neighborhoods, for example, in Wynwood-Edgewater, inventory soared 60% year-over-year, largely due to a 64% jump in new listings of mostly condos. And in Upper Eastside, inventory soared 91% while prices plunged 15%.

Real estate is local. It’s happening neighborhood by neighborhood, market by market. Now the fabulous condo construction boom in Miami is turning into a glut. It’s not like this hasn’t happened before.

The events in Miami are not necessarily paralleled in Oklahoma City, Houston, or San Francisco. But as the last housing bust has shown, market after market is finding out that they’re not immune.
During the last housing bust, some markets saw prices peak in late 2005. By mid-2006, the nationwide average peaked. But prices in San Francisco didn’t peak until November 2007. It was one of the last cities to watch its home prices collapse, even as realtors were still trying to reassure potential buyers that San Francisco would be immune.

Now they’re at it again, confronted by two treacherous forces, with impeccable timing. Read…  This Will Crush the Insane San Francisco & Silicon Valley Housing Bubble