Monday, July 27, 2009
Help Me Howard: Condo Towing
Condo clashes are common and often heated in South Florida. This one's no different. At issue, whether an association can legally tow the cars of unit owners behind on their maintenance fees. The answer in tonight's Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- It's hot in South Florida, but over at Buckley Towers, these residents are broiling.
The condo board has grown frustrated with owners who are not paying their maintenance fees and has started towing their cars away.
Damian Urrudia: "I had to pay $190. $190. I had to go to Fort Lauderdale, 35 miles from here."
Residents say not just one car out of the parking lot... not 10... but dozens.
Marwan Alsoudi: "Everyday they take like 20 cars. They make $4,000 a day."
The condo board says they have no choice, that so many owners have stopped paying maintenance that the association is broke, punishing the hard working people who do pay their fees.
Jehuda Samara: "The people owe us $1 million. We can't run the business, OK?"
The towing is pitting owners who pay against owners who can't pay, and tempers are flaring.
Sueli Schinagl: "I pay my bills."
Jehuda Samara: "She don't pay nothing, don't believe her, she don't pay nothing."
In the chaos going on at Buckley Towers the inevitable happens, tow truck drivers haul away people who are paying.
Mickey Simon: "I pay all my maintenance. I have zero balance, and he takes my car from my spot, my own spot."
Towing to force people to pay is one of the solutions desperate condo associations are turning to. As the people who pay watch their building deteriorate because of the people who don't pay.
Mickey Simon: "They are getting free use of our elevator, which I and others pay. They are getting free hot water here. They are getting free television here. All these things are given free to these free loaders. Of course we don't want them to park here."
It's a complicated issue, but, Howard, the question is simple: Can an association punish the owners who can't pay by towing their cars away?
Howard Finkelstein: "Associations are having a tough time with people not paying, but they cannot tow your car regardless of how much you owe. In fact, if you are late with your fees, they cannot even stop you from parking your car on the property or going into your condo."
When we told the board members it was not legal to tow owners who weren't paying their fees, they couldn't believe it.
Board Member: "I don't know anything about it being illegal."
Another Board Member: "I do not know. You are not a lawyer, I'm not a lawyer."
The board then met, checked with their lawyer and were told their solution to punish the non-payers was not a solution.
Danny Cohen, Help Me Howard producer: "So you guys made a mistake."
Board Member: "It was an error."
This condo will no longer be towing residents cars, and Howard says, no matter how bad off the associations get, they have got to be careful.
Howard Finkelstein: "The boards are being put in a horrible spot by owners who are also in a tough spot and cannot afford to pay, but the boards cannot solve this condo association crisis. The answer will have to come in new laws from the legislature. It's their responsibility."
Condo owners can now park in their spaces again, and in a strange twist, the associations they put in a bad spot may now owe them money.
Board Member: "Oh, yes, as I said, logically and morally, if we did something wrong, they should be reimbursed."
Patrick Fraser: "A board member told us the tow company had the money from the towing, and besides Buckley Towers doesn't have the money to pay the thousands to people whose cars were towed. Maybe they can deduct it from their late maintenance fees. Sadly, it's a mess across South Florida for the people who can't afford to pay and for the people who are paying."
Troubles parked in your lot? Wanna tow them away? Associate with us. We aren't run by a board, thankfully.
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