Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Carmel on the Case: Condo Mess
All of us know firsthand how devastating a hurricane can be. But for some seniors, the memory is still fresh in their minds. They have not been able to move into their homes for over nine months and nobody will tell them why. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is - On The Case.
WSVN--These ladies are all widows forced from their homes after Hurricane Wilma.
Anita Kellman: "I don't know where to turn. I don't know what to do. I'm so unhappy. I'm the most unhappiest human being you've ever met."
Anita Kellman, her sister, and their friends want to go home but instead they've been forced to stay at a hotel.
Loretta Beckerson: "All I do is sit up and cry all night. All I do is cry."
The women live - or lived - in Phase Three of Sunrise Lakes in Sunrise.
Hundreds of apartments here were declared unsafe and gutted.
Fay Goldstein: "When I walked into my kitchen I was literally ankle deep in water."
Now, more than nine months later, 82-year-old Fay Goldstein is left with a shell of an apartment and mounting bills.
Fay Goldstein: "I cry every time I come here."
The condo associations hired a contractor shortly after the hurricane.
Insurance is paying for the repairs.
But the rebuilding process is taking time.
Today, the roofs have all been repaired with the first building ready to be returned to owners.
Pat Siegel hopes to have her apartment back this week - but she says the date she can have it has been pushed back repeatedly.
Pat Siegel: "This has been a life from hell for the last nine and a half months."
Many owners have even been paying for hotel rooms on top of their mortgages and maintenance fees.
And some are running out of money.
Anita Kellman: "We're elderly people and we live on social security and there's nobody helping us and we are dying a slow death."
And now the association's manager, Jack Rodosta, is in trouble with the state.
He's been accused of misconduct for failure to turn over financial records by the department of business and professional regulation.
Carmel Cafiero: "Mr. Radosta? Carmel Cafiero Channel 7. Can we talk with you for a minute please? You haven't return our calls..."
But Radosta wasn't talking about the complaint from the state or complaints from owners.
Jack Radosta: "I don't have any comment on that at this time."
Carmel Cafiero: "You think that's appropriate for the man who is the manager here?"
Jack Radosta: "I don't have any comment. I'm sorry."
Allen Helfman: "By law we are allowed to review records for seven years back - they have not made it easy."
Allen Helfman is organizing condo owners to gather information for a possible lawsuit.
Carmel Cafiero: "Do you think that these residents have been taken advantage of?"
Allen Helfman: "One hundred percent."
Owners have also contacted the state condo Ombudsman's office.
Bill Raphan: "I would say they're unhappy about their position being that they're homeless."
Assistant Ombudsman Bill Raphan says everybody related to the Sunrise Lakes project points to someone else for all the delays.
He calls it the blame game. From complaints the city and the contractor are moving too slowly - to complaints that associations aren't responding to owners - and that owners are complaining too much.
Bill Raphan: "And all this does in obfuscate and make everything unclear and really you can't pin down where the blame should be. And maybe it's a little bit of everybody."
But in the middle are the seniors who grow more desperate by the day.
Anita Kellman: "Why can't they give me back my house? Please! I'm just begging them to do that. I'm not asking for a million things. Please - I want to go home - please."
A simple question, but one nobody has answered.
If You Have A Story For Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE