Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried promoted a hotline connecting those impacted by the Surfside disaster with consumer protection services. The hotline also helps those concerned about oversight at other buildings, and with policing nonprofits raising money to aid others after the tragedy.
That’s after the July 24 collapse of Champlain Towers South condominium that killed at least 97 people. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services hotline will help individuals check on charity status and report any issues related to homeowners’ associations. The hotline can be reached at 1-800-FL-AYUDA or online at FloridaConsumerHelp.com.
“We remain heartbroken for the loved ones, survivors, and community of Surfside, and we thank the first responders who put themselves in harm’s way,” Fried said. “We must focus on preventing future tragedies through the necessary state and local fixes on inspections, and it’s absolutely necessary for the Governor to establish a statewide task force to review the situation.”
So far, the agency has already received 53 calls related to HOA and condo board concerns. Right now, repairs and maintenance for condominiums is largely the responsibility of such associations, and the state, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, has promised to look at tightening fiduciary controls.
Fried has notably blasted decades of deregulation and suggested that may have contributed to the fatal event. As the Democrat runs for Governor, that’s likely to fuel criticisms both of DeSantis, the incumbent in office for before the disaster, and Democratic Primary opponent Charlie Crist, who served as Governor when a law was repealed that required more frequent inspections.
The hotline, though, will focus on providing immediate assistance to individuals. The agency has also had 25 complaints come in concerning charities formed that claim to be raising money for victims and families, and Fried said FDACS will make sure those charities properly register and spend funds appropriately.
“We want everyone to know that FDACS is here for you, and we’ve begun dedicated tracking of condo and HOA-related consumer calls,” she said. “With the outpouring of support as families heal, we want to prevent bad actors from taking advantage of generosity, so we encourage everyone to give safely with our Check-a-Charity tool on our website. Floridians come together after tragedies, and together, we will look ahead to save lives and make communities safer.”