Is Your Termite Company
Doing the Job?
New laws affecting condominium and homeowners associations went into effect at midnight, September 30, 2004. Now is a good time to review these significant changes again. Many of the new statutes have been addressed in previous e-Lawyers.
If you live in a Florida condominium, there is probably a termite bond covering the property. Getting such a bond usually starts with an initial inspection and treatment of the property by a pest control company, and an initial lump sum payment by the condominium. Yearly renewal premiums are paid to the company, with follow up inspections and re-treatments by the company. You pay the premiums, but are the re-inspections and re-treatments really performed?
Attorney General Charlie Crist says they may not be, at least with regard to Orkin, Inc., one of the largest providers of termite bonds here in Florida. The Economic Crimes Unit of the Florida Attorney General’s office has opened a racketeering investigation of the pest control giant for possible unfair and deceptive business practices. The investigation follows hundreds of other lawsuits filed by homeowners against Orkin, alleging that the company failed to properly inspect homes, treat for termites, and, in some cases, forged documents when no actual work had been done. Lawsuits have also been filed against Terminix, Sears, and other regional pest control companies. (Baumann, C.S. & Credeur, M.J. September 6, 2004, ‘Orkin under investigation by state attorney’, Orlando Business Journal, pp.1, 60)
In one of these lawsuits, involving an Altamonte Springs apartment complex, it is alleged that Orkin concealed termite damage from the property owner, failed to include termite damage or the presence of termites in reports, and refused to properly treat for termites. The attorney representing the complex also alleges that Orkin pays its employees only $3.00 to reinspect homes, whereas new contracts can net the employee hundreds of dollars. The implied result is that employees focus more on getting new contracts, and spend less time on re-inspections and re-treatments. Former Orkin employees testified that they sometimes wrote fake treatment and inspection reports, in some cases while having pizza parties at their offices.
So, what can you do to protect your condominium? First, carefully screen your pest control company. Ask for the names of other satisfied customers similarly situated, such as other condominium complexes or larger apartment complexes. You may end up paying more for services, but you have the peace of mind of knowing that you are protected by a company with a good reputation. (Baumann, C.S. & Credeur, M.J. September 6, 2004, ‘Orkin under investigation by state attorney’, Orlando Business Journal, pp.1, 60)
Secondly, be sure to document any failures or discrepancies on the part of the pest control company. If an annual inspection hasn’t been conducted, send a letter to the contact on your termite bond documenting that such an inspection hasn’t been conducted. Try to coordinate these inspections with a board member or property manager, taking notes on what you see and hear. If the termite company refuses to coordinate such an inspection with you, document that as well. If the company recommends certain actions, such as redirecting irrigation spray heads away from buildings, be sure to take action on these items and document that this has been done. If the company leaves a report indicating that a re-treatment has been conducted, but there is no evidence indicating that it has, send a letter demanding a return visit.
Third, if damage is discovered, document that damage with photographs and/or video recordings. Immediately contact the termite company and demand in writing that they correct the problem. If they refuse or delay, contact your association law firm.
Termites are a part of Florida life. However, a good termite company, and a lot of vigilance on the part of your Association, can protect you from the damage they can cause.
The firm of Taylor & Carls, P.A., with offices located in Maitland, Melbourne and Daytona Beach, Florida, was founded in 1981 and has practiced in the area of community association law since that date. This edition prepared by Patrick C. Howell, Esq. of Taylor & Carls, P.A. The information contained in The Association e-Lawyer should not be acted upon without professional legal advice.
©2004 Taylor & Carls, P.A. All Rights Reserved.
The firm can be reached at 407-660-1040.
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