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 CONDO MISFORTUNES

March 16, 2010 9 comments

WARNING ALL CONDO OWNERS!

If you choose to buy a condominium or “condo,” be sure to fully research the property and get everything in writing.  (And I mean everything.)  Although there are many reputable developers and trustees, some people have found condo ownership a nightmare. 

Bonnie Rain’s Blog.  My blog contains stories of my own condo nightmares, dealing with everything from raw sewage overflows to rental tenant violence to second-hand smoke pouring into my home – to continuing condo trust rule violations.  My condo has made me sick, tired, broke, homeless for days, and, at times, lonely.

People may buy condos because they don’t want the hassles of maintaining a house and lawn.  The myth is that condos allow the painting, roof repairs, snow-plowing and lawn mowing to be someone else’s problem. However, not only do condo owners have the same issues as people with houses, they need to get these problems fixed by committee and consensus. 

I can tell you from experience about what a condo owner goes through when a Trustee neglects the property, mismanages funds, and doesn’t enforce the condo trust rules.  But what if your Condo Builder/Developer did shoddy work, and you find your property falling apart shortly after purchasing it? 

Here’s someone else’s story to illustrate what happens when you get a ‘bad seed’ Condo Developer or Trustee.

CONDO NIGHTMARES NORTH OF BOSTON – ED’s STORY

A friend of mine, Ed B. (or “Ed”) purchased a condo North of Boston in February of 2009 with plenty of snow on the ground, and while the condo community was still under development.

Ed asked all of the appropriate questions of his Realtor and the Seller’s Realtors, and he made sure to ask the Builder/Developer many germane questions.   

It was only after Ed bought the condo unit that he found out that all of the parties misrepresented the property and did not provide correct and honest answers.

Unlike my own situation (in Boston), where the Seller and the Realtor kind of ganged up on me to say that I would lose my one-year warranty on all of the work, appliances and fixtures if I were to opt for an inspection, Ed did get himself a Home Inspector who reviewed the property. 

Ed’s Inspector had the Builder/Developer correct many issues he found in the new construction. However, Ed found out later that the Builder/Developer did not answer all of the questions honestly (including questions about the basement, which later turned out to have serious water issues).

Once the snow melted, Ed found there were all kinds of building code violations on property.  Not just on his property, either.  Things were falling apart all over. 

Ed’s neighbors in the condo community were also suffering from the Builder/Developer’s shoddy work.  When I visited Ed, I was shocked by the way the Builder/Developer had left the property. 

There were piles of wood with nails sticking out of them on the property; parts of the condo community appeared to be like a ghost town; and the day before I arrived, the outside lights had caught on fire – just to name a few issues.

Da Da-Da Dah!  CHARGE!  (Picture Our Hero with Sword and White Horse.)  At the time Ed found out about all the property violations, there was no Condo Association because the condo community was not established long enough to have own independent association.  So, Ed had to become proactive and lobby City Officials to make them enforce building codes and engineering orders on the property that had been issued in 2007, 2008 and 2009 by the City.

Ed had to make himself get ‘all fired up’ on his own behalf and on behalf of his condo community to help form a Neighborhood Association to deal with the City and the Builder/Developer and create a united front.

Some of Ed’s issues have been fixed; however, there are still multiple outstanding issues that require a constant state of activism on Ed’s part to get things resolved. 

“Who knew that we would have to spend so much time out of our already-busy lives to become our own advocates just because we purchased a condo?” Ed asked me on one occasion. 

I believe I responded with something to the effect that we also did not expect that we would have to become some kind of novice researchers, photographers, public relations agents, or attorneys just so we could get some of our needs met.

(Ed has said that he and several of the neighbors have extensive files and folders on all of the property related issues that would probably benefit from a system like the mobile medical filing system!)

Ed has had four Realtors look at his property.  He was told that he definitely has the value related to inside of his property.  However, the Realtors told him that the incomplete construction on the property and the poor outdoor conditions significantly decreases his property value and “takes away from the curb appeal.”

Sometimes Ed gets hopping mad at the thought of what has happened to him.

“Had my questions been answered honestly by the Realtors, I never would have purchased this property,” he says with a frustrated edge in his voice. 

Ed did everything correctly, and yet he is at risk of losing a lot of his investment’s value.  He now he feels a strong need to warn buyers to beware of unscrupulous Realtors/Builder/Developers in this economy.

I second his warning, and say beware of unscrupulous Sellers and Trustees, too!

These unfortunate situations have taken quite a toll on us.

Nightmares, Health Issues & Retaliation.  For me, there has been the nightmare-inducing fear of contamination from raw sewage, along with feelings of isolation, since my friends – who have been hearing of my sewage issues – don’t visit much anymore. 

There has also been a death threat made by a neighbor who has been creating excessive noise for two and a half years that sometimes results in headaches and anxiety-related chest pains.  Then there is the fear from the very real possibility of retaliation from my Trustee or his associates, since many of them all seem to be either related or friends. 

There are nights I can’t sleep, and I seem to get sick more often since moving to this place.

Let’s not forget how the Trustee’s rental tenant’s second-hand smoke poured into my home for two years, which caused me to get sick quite a bit – and contributed to a diagnosis of nasal lymphoma in my beloved pet. 

Anxiety, Illness & Investment Loss.  For Ed, the anxiety and continuing Condo Community problems have made him worry that an old, serious illness could rear its ugly head again.  He admits moments of high anxiety in which he feels he needs medication to get him through. 

His condo was supposed to be a good investment and a home.  It has been neither.

CONDO LAWS NEED TO CHANGE TO BETTER PROTECT OWNERS

Our two stories should give prospective condo owners ideas on how to mitigate risks and make informed buying decisions.  Our situations are obviously not the norm since there are many content condo owners out there. 

However, Ed and I have learned some sad lessons since purchasing our homes, including the fact that rights for condo owners are totally inadequate, compared to renters.

Another frustrating element is that it can be like a game of Russian Roulette about what kind of neighbors or Trustees you’re going to get.  If your Trustees are negligent or unscrupulous, you can be faced with a lot of headaches if you live close to disruptive renters.

Like many property owners today, condo owners who are ‘under water’ with their mortgages can be subjected to unexpected or uncontrollable assessments, and can face losing everything. 

When there is an air of distrust and bad communication between the condo owners and a Trustee and/or Builder/Developer, situations can become highly stressful (and even dangerou).  I know I have felt trapped, without real options or protections. 

These guys know where you live, and they seem to have all of the control. It is daunting, and can be dangerous to your health, safety and sanity. 

Then, when you find yourself needing an attorney, there is the ‘Catch-22’ of earning too much to qualify for legal aid, too little to enlist enthusiastic counsel.  Unless you’ve got between $5,000 and $15,000 for an attorney’s retainer fee, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to do a tremendous amount of legwork to find affordable counsel or other options, if you do have the misfortune of getting a bad Builder/Developer, Realtor, Trustee or Seller like us.

We Need Other Stories.  If you or someone you know has been living a condo nightmare, please reach out and let me know.  United We Stand, People!  With additional stories, we have a better chance of getting the media’s attention, and, eventually, we may be able to propose Legislation that will offer condo owners more protection.

In the meantime, I ask that you keep Ed and me in your prayers and meditations.  In addition to our attempts to find justice and solutions, we’re still hoping for miracles. 

We hope to one day put an end to our nightmares and once again enjoy peaceful, respectable and safe homes.

Real Estate


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