Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Help Me Howard: Condo Windows
Some condo owners in South Florida are elated this hurricane season passed without a storm because they are still without windows. But now they're asking Help Me Howard how they get their windows fixed before next year. Here's Seven's Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Melissa is one of those rare condo owners -- rare because she is involved in her association as a board member.
Melissa Hayakawa: "I wanted to make changes happen, and I felt I could be of use that way."
Of course when Wilma hit last year, Melissa's building got hammered like everyone else's.
Melissa Hayakawa: "I lost my two front windows. The use of one, and the other one is just totally blown out."
And being on the board, Melissa wanted to make sure everyone was taken care of.
Melissa Hayakawa: "I had roof leaks and I wanted to find out how I could best help out and get involved."
The roof was repaired but when Melissa filed a claim with her homeowner's insurance to replace the windows, they told her they didn't have to pay.
Melissa Hayakawa: "That my association was responsible as of Jan. 1, 2004 ruling."
As a board member, Melissa thought it would be simple to get the association to file a claim with their insurance company and replace the windows.
Melissa Hayakawa: "So far, the windows are not going to be covered, as of the last conversation I had with my association president."
It turns out that their deductible is so high the money isn't there to replace the windows.
So each time it rains Melissa has to re-tape the windows to keep the water out -- while her association keeps coming up with excuses to not follow the law and replace her windows.
Melissa Hayakawa: "There's a lot of broken windows around here. You know, if the association ends up paying for that, where do they get the money for that?"
The answer, of course, would be a special assessment.
But the condo owners without damage don't want to pay for other people's windows.
So how can a condo board member get the board to follow the law and replace her windows?
Your turn, Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "In 2003, Florida passed a law that says Condominium Associations have to pay for windows and doors damaged in a casualty. That law supersedes any condominium documents which may claim the owner is responsible."
The Florida Condo Ombudsman's Office told us that not having the money to fix the windows is not a valid excuse. The association is required by law to get the money through a special assessment or loan if they don't have it.
If your association still refuses to fix your windows, send a certified "Letter of Inquiry" explaining your damage and officially ask them to repair them.
If they don't respond or refuse to fix the windows within 30 days, file a complaint with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Howard says that will get the state working on your side.
Howard Finkelstein: "The state will then contact your association and order them to fix the damages. If they fail to do so, the state will get a court to order them to fix it."
Broken windows are causing a lot of headaches, pitting condo owners against each other and their boards -- and Melissa can see it from both sides.
Melissa Hayakawa: "I love my association and my neighborhood, but I pay $279 a month for maintenance, and for things to be taken care of, and, if this is their responsibility, I'd like to see it taken care of."
Patrick Fraser: "Now, one more note: Check to see if your condo association got an insurance settlement to repair damages from storms. If they got money and didn't do the necessary repairs, that is insurance fraud -- and you can sue them over that."
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