Trade group leader forming homeowners' coalition
By Marilyn Bowden
Florida property owners are getting a raw deal, says Ralph Puga, president of the Florida Foreign Trade Association. To fix that, he proposes a statewide association that would act as an advocate and a source of information for members.
Mr. Puga, who says he has real estate assets worth about $8 million in the state, got the idea for the Florida Property Owners Association from his own experience.
"As an investor, I'm very disappointed in the way the state handles many things," he said.
Among his concerns are taxes, insurance and the homestead exemption.
"Property taxes are based on market value instead of the assessed value," he said, "which is usually about 20% less than the actual amount paid for a property."
With most major insurance carriers no longer underwriting in Florida due to recent costly hurricane seasons, Mr. Puga said, property owners are at the mercy of "a bunch of thieves," paying exorbitant rates only to find that most damages are not covered by their policies.
One service the Florida Property Owners Association would provide members would be a list of recommended insurance carriers.
"These issues and many other fees translate to higher rents," Mr. Puga said, "which creates a social problem because people who can't afford those rents will need to get government assistance - and that will come out of our taxes."
The homestead exemption that allows Floridians a $25,000 deduction for a primary residence also needs adjusting, Mr. Puga said.
"While the value of homes in Florida has increased rapidly over the past few years," he said, "the homestead exemption remains the same as it was many years ago.
"All of these things are working against citizens. We need a lobbying effort to protect our interests."
The organization, in a formative stage, would be open to anyone who owns property in the state, Mr. Puga said. He's looking for a strong executive director to get the ball rolling, he said.