(WSVN) – A group of investors got on the board of a condo association, approved a large special assessment and said it had to be paid by Aug. 1. Is that legal? It’s tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Arbor Key is a nice affordable condo complex in Tamarac.
Maria Chaux: “I’ve lived here for a long time. I like the place.”
The 232 condos are also on a big chunk of real estate that developers would love to have…
Patrick Fraser: “Trying to take the property away?”
Harvey Brown: “That’s right, exactly.”
Harvey came to that conclusion after four people bought around 50 units at Arbor Key condo, got themselves elected to the board, and in late June passed a special assessment of over $5.1 million that the owners have to pay in a lump sum.
Patrick Fraser: “Twenty-two thousand dollars?”
Maria Chaux: “Twenty-two thousand dollars. I’ve got to come up with that by August 1st.”
That’s right. Each condo owner has until Aug. 1st to pay between $20,000 and $24,000 for the assessment.
Maria Chaux: “Yeah, we don’t have that money.”
Impossible for Maria, who struggles to survive on her $1,100-a-month retirement.
Maria Chaux: “You see, I have very low income. It’s hard for us.”
If they don’t pay it all by Aug. 1st, the residents were told, they will be sent to collections.
Maria Chaux: “I said they might be crazy. That’s the only thing come to my mind. I say these people are crazy.”
Iris Gonzalez owns two units at Arbor Key and was once on the board.
Among the repairs: the roof, the pool, the awnings. They are needed, she says, but it will take a couple of years to do the work, and she says the residents should be given those two years to pay for the assessment.
Iris Gonzalez: “Little by little with payment plans, so people can breathe, so people can catch up, not to choke the people, because not everyone has the same economic position as some investors.”
Already, the owners like Maria and Harvey are getting called by a Realtor who says she represents an unnamed buyer who wants to purchase their condo.
Ernesto, who owns a couple of units here, can see what’s going on.
Ernesto Cuellar: “In the way they see it? They want to put as many people as they can in foreclosure, and once the property goes up to the market, they will buy it, and they will buy it cheap.”
Good for the investors, who might even tear the condos down and put in higher priced buildings on the acres of property.
Ernesto Cuellar: “They want to maximize their profit, and they don’t care for who are they damaging on their way.”
Bad for people like Harvey and Maria, who had hoped to live here for the rest of their lives.
Harvey Brown: “All I’m saying, I hope the association can come to some agreement for the the small owners, that they can work with us.”
Well, Howard, what can a condo owner do when a board makes decisions that could cost you your home?
Howard Finkelstein: “The simple solution: recall the board and throw them out along with their lump sum special assessment. The second solution: go to court, show a judge what you think is going on, and have the judge remove the board and temporarily appoint someone to straighten things out at the property.”
I started checking. Companies owned by one board member: Benjamin Jones own at least 40 units, paying anywhere from $85,000 to around $115,000 per unit.
I emailed and called him. He wouldn’t respond.
Only the fifth board member would talk. Alberto Conde told me he voted against the special assessment, that he was resigning from the board because what is being done to the owners is not right.
Alberto Conde: “Give the people a payment plan.”
It’s what the owners who are not wealthy investors want. It’s what they need to stay in their homes.
Harvey Brown: “Every day I have sleepless nights, sleepless nights since I got this letter. I don’t know what to do.”
Well, he might be sleeping better soon. The 180 owners like Harvey are fighting back and doing what Howard suggested. They are going to try to recall the board, and they have hired an attorney if they have to go to court.
We are seeing this happen to a lot of condo complexes, so we will let you know who wins this battle over the buildings in case your complex faces the same kind of takeover.
Got a problem you want to divest from? Invest in a solution by buying into us. The only thing special about our assessment: it’s free.
With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.
Copyright 2022 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.