Manatee County condominium owners should consider lobbying legislators over the unintended consequences of a 2007 state law.
A loophole in that statute allows private investors who own more than 80 percent of the units in a complex to force the remaining owners to sell.
The complex would then be converted into apartments. With so many condo owners under water on mortgages due to the recession, those people could owe their lenders money after a forced sale.
People's lives are being turned upside down by losing their deeds or facing that threat. Already, investors have taken ownership of more than 200 condos statewide under this law, ousting people out of their homes.
The misguided statute was designed to ease the process for repairing condos damaged by hurricanes. Prior law required 100 percent of owners to reach an agreement before developers and investors could convert condos to apartments, a threshold difficult to achieve.
Enacted before the recession, few foresaw the inherent danger in giving a decided advantage to bulk buyers of condos. After the real estate market crashed and began a slow climb back, savvy investors saw an opportunity to buy at cheap market rates and get a nice return on apartment rents.
Around the height of the real estate bubble, apartment buildings were converted into condos as renters became buyers and investors took advantage of the soaring market.
With a flood of foreclosures and short sales, more and more homeowners became renters -- creating another investment opportunity. Manatee County alone witnessed more than 200,000 foreclosures after the real estate bubble burst.
Unfortunately, a move to right the wrong created by the 2007 law failed during the 2014 legislative session. But now, Rep. Carl Zimmerman, D-Palm Harbor, plans to try again and is lining up allies in both the House and Senate.
Manatee County's legislative delegation should hop on board.
While the life-altering problem surfaced under Gov. Rick Scott, then-Gov. Charlie Crist signed the measure into law. Alarmed at the issue, Scott is calling for a legislative solution. That and Zimmerman's campaign bode well for the 2015 session.
Still, we recommend condo owners contact Manatee County lawmakers to register their views. Nothing is assured as influential investors and bulk buyers are bound to fight repeal with an army of lobbyists.