The San Juan Daily Star
Senator urges passage of bill that would expedite dispute resolution process in condos
By The Star Staff
New Progressive Party Sen. Keren Riquelme Cabrera urged the Senate on Wednesday to approve Bill 843, which establishes an alternative expedited adjudication process to address disputes in condominiums, including complaints filed by apartment owners against a complex’s board of directors.
“We continue to receive complaints from condominium owners about the complaint adjudication processes,” said Riquelme, who authored the measure. “We understand that the Department of Consumer Affairs (DACO) has been doing a good job in this sense under the current parameters; unfortunately, this structure does not allow an expeditious adjudication of complaints, [but] Senate Bill 843 does. I call on the leadership of the Popular Democratic Party in the Senate to give way to the measure as a matter of urgency.”
The bill was filed on April 5, 2022 and since the 19th of that month it has been in the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Essential Services and Consumer Affairs.
The measure creates an Alternate Expedited Adjudication Process, which is similar to the judicial process of summary judgment. The expedited process would remain under the jurisdiction of DACO as the administrative forum in the first instance, and provides a strict term of up to 60 days from the filing of the complaint to resolve the controversy.
The owner who uses the process would be required to present his or her case in such a way that it places DACO in a position to have all the evidence and documentation necessary to elucidate the controversy without the need to require testimony or additional significant evidence.
If the 60-day term to resolve a case submitted through the Alternate Expedited Adjudicative Process is breached, the complainant may file a challenge action in court.
“The experience has been sad,” Riquelme said. “The delay, in many cases of years, in the resolution of the controversies presented by the owners of apartments … against the owners councils or the boards of directors is the cause of constant complaints. Every day we receive the same complaint. Plunged into despair at finding themselves deprived of an agile forum to solve their problems, these residents demand legislative action so that the Superior Court is invested with primary jurisdiction over these cases.”
The Puerto Rico Condominium Law (Law 129-2020) was approved with the purpose of making individual ownership of an apartment in a building or property subject to the horizontal property regime.
The statute retained that adjudicative scheme for the resolution of controversies in condominiums with at least one apartment dedicated to housing, with the DACO as the primary and exclusive forum.