Monday, June 23, 2008
Help Me Howard: Condo Problem
What would you do if you lived in a condo association and half the homeowners could no longer pay their maintenance fees? Well, in South Florida many people are having to deal with that right now, and they are finding out it's a nightmare that is dragging the members who can pay down, but is it legal here? Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser has the answer.
WSVN -- If you look up, it seems the sky is still filled with bright shiny new condos right next to condos still under construction. Now look further inside current complexes where families are living, and what you cant see from the outside, condos crumbling from within.
Petrese Simianakis: "We are in a situation that we seem to not get out of."
Three years ago, a dream came true for Petrese and her husband Mike when they bought there first condo two and a half years ago. They have a beautiful daughter. Today, they are getting financially strangled.
Petrese Simianakis: "The association fees keep going up, up and up, and we keep being assessed on top of our regular maintenance."
The Simianakis could afford their mortgage, their association fees, their bills, but their neighbors were not as lucky.
Petrese Simianakis: "We have 25 units out of 48 that don't pay, so the people that do pay, which is 23, are being penalized for that."
With 23 condo owners paying and 25 unable to pay, the association could not afford its bills.
Petrese Simianakis: "We have no insurance since February, and February of 2006 we got notices on our door that our water was going to be turned off."
Without insurance, the pool is closed, the grass hasn't been mowed since January, the trash went weeks without getting picked up, which caught the attention of code enforcement.
Petrese Simianakis: "We've been cited over and over and over. I can't even tell you how many times code enforcement has been here and filed complaints on us."
To try to resolve the mess, the Coral West Condo board doubled the monthly association fees to cover for the people who weren't paying fees. As they fell further behind, they issued one special assessment, then another and another.
Petrese Simianakis: "$1,000; $1,000 and $670."
Patrick: "And that was all done because?"
Petrese Simianakis: "Of people that don't pay."
But with half the condo owners trying to pay to cover for the half that are in foreclosure, they are all being crushed.
Petrese Simianakis: "It sucks. That's really the only word because my husband and I have. I can actually cry right now."
The Simianakis have tried to sell the condo, but since the building is not insured it can't be done, and with another special assessment about to be sent out, they are financially tapped out.
Petrese Simianakis: "I've been crying for a week. There is just no way out. We have to walk, we can't afford it."
Going into foreclosure, ruin their credit and walk away. It's not fair, but is it legal to force half the condo owners to pay extra money to cover the fees of condo owners who are in foreclosure and can't pay, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "Unfortunately, the answer is yes because there is no other choice, and the horrible part by forcing them to do that is you are driving the half that can afford to pay into foreclosure, but the law doesn't have a solution. It's the ultimate Catch 22 situation."
The little things the owners left could do, mow the grass, maintain the common areas, but they don't have the money for insurance to pay the other bills, and each day we hear from more and more condos facing the same problem.
Howard Finkelstein: "We are in a serious crisis, people hear about it, but, when you see this, you realize this is the beginning. We will see many more condo associations fall apart, and, legally, I don't think any laws could be passed to save them."
The Simianakis are headed into foreclosure, but they are trying to look at the bright side, they have their health, and they have their darling Ashland.
Petrese Simianakis: "Now, looking back, this is the biggest mistake we've ever made, and, hopefully, this will be the biggest of our entire life and our entire marriage, and this is the worst that's behind us."
Patrick Fraser: "Petrese and her husband are now looking for a new place because they know any day they are going to have to walk away, and you always hear get on the condo board. Petrese did, but all that got her was a front row seat for the association's slide into ruin. Howard and I have done a lot of stories over the years, this is one of the few where there is just nothing we can do, nothing at all. Sad."
Condo craziness left you slipping down a slide? Need someone to put the brakes on? Contact us, we will do our best to assess the situation and hopefully leave you with closure instead of foreclosure.
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