Monday, October 5, 2009
Help Me Howard: Criminal Checks For Children
Mention the words condo association and South Floridians could roll out a laundry list of complaints, but here's a new one. An association requiring renters to provide criminal background checks on their children ages 5 and older. Believe it or not it's tonight's Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you have ever heard someone tell horror stories about a condo association, odds are Sun and Lake Condos will be in the conversation.
Bill Robinson: "I just thought it was absurd."
William Zalaquett: "It is ridiculous."
Edgar Arauz: "Totally ridiculous."
What's got these people dumbfounded by a condo association? Let's listen.
Edgar Arauz: "It says, every kid older than 5 years old, the parents need to provide a criminal record."
A criminal background check on a 5-year-old. No, Edgar, you must have misunderstood. Bill, what did the management company tell you?
Bill Robinson, Realtor: "Well, if they are 5 years old, they have to have criminal histories done on them. My mouth dropped, I didn't know what to do."
Amazing. If a condo owner wants to rent their unit in Coral Springs' Sun and Lake Community, the potential renters must provide a criminal background report on every child five years and older.
Bill Robinson: "Well, in 32 years of selling real estate here and dealing with condo associations and boards, I have never come across a request like this."
Bill is a Realtor who tried to rent Edgar's unit to some families and also made the mistake of trying to reason with the management company running Sun and Lakes.
Bill Robinson: "I said, that's absurd. I said, I have never, in all these years, heard of doing criminal investigations on 5-year-old children. She goes, 'Well, this is South Florida, you have no idea what is down here.'"
I must have missed the news the night police rounded up that gang of 5-year-old tricycle thieves, but seriously, condo owners like Edgar can't find a family willing to endure the laughs to ask for a criminal background check on their kindergartners.
Edgar Arauz: "I have been facing problems with the management company in the last year, and three of the families have walked away because of the ridiculous application this management company is providing."
Realtors who have the rental listing here say they can't believe the management company and condo board actually think kids drinking out of sippy cups could actually have criminal records and have ulterior motives.
William Zalaquett, Realtor: "It looks like whoever is in the board of directors, they don't like tenants or they don't like children, either way."
Edgar's two bedroom, two and a half bath is too big for a single person, and with families unable to move in, the lack of rental income is driving him into foreclosure.
Edgar Arauz: "By not allowing me or trying to work around with applicants or tenants, I am being hurt, because I can not come up with the whole money to pay the mortgage."
OK, Howard, can a condo association force a potential renter to provide a criminal background check on children?
Howard Finkelstein: "This is both absurd and illegal, and it's a waste of time, effort and money. Five-year-olds don't have criminal backgrounds, and even if older juveniles do, their records are confidential and to demand that a parent reveal or release any information is against the law."
A Sun and Lake condominium board member told us, he was not aware background checks were required for children so young. We then called the condo's management company, they told us to talk to their lawyer. He said he was unaware of the clause and that the board is ultimately responsible for the application. He later told us that they are removing the requirement from their leases. Good news for condo owners, but maybe too late for the association.
Howard Finkelstein: "A condo owner could sue the association and management company for making it impossible to rent out their condo. This requirement seems to have been designed to keep renters out, and doing it this way is illegal."
The demand for background checks have really hurt owners like Edgar, and the change may come too late for him.
Edgar Arauz: "I'm just trying to survive in this ocean of people desperate to find a home. I'm here to provide it, but I just don't find the right way to get someone in it."
Now in this situation, no one wants to take responsibility. What can a condo owner do? Get on the board, or if you can't do that, read every document they are considering. Don't let them get away with things like this.
Battling a problem you think is childish? Wanna clear the record? Contact us. Our background is boring, but we don't need training wheels to roll out a solution.