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 How To Transcend A Condo Nightmare. No, really…How?




Can You Help Me Transcend?

tran·scend


Definition:  to rise above; surpass; to be greater than.


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How does a person rise above a nightmarish condo situation, while having to live there day after day? 
I can tell you, it isn’t easy.


CONDO HELL.  Soon, I will have lived in condo hell for four years.  It started out with a quick change in attitude from the guy who sold me the condo as soon as I bought the place.  (He was also the Developer, and is one of the Trustees.)  His behavior went from friendly and agreeable to dark, antagonistic, and, on occasions, threatening within a short time after my purchase.


Within a month, I had my first bout of raw sewage and overflow incidents which kept happening for the next two years.  This Trustee would not take responsibility to have the situation corrected, even after the City’s Plumbing Inpector contacted him and told him he needed to get it fixed.


On top of the sewage problems, the condo was filled with rental tenants who did not give a hoot about the neighbors or the property.  I was dealing with second-hand smoke streaming through my condo, excessive noise on a regular basis (any time of the day or night), unseemly trash and property maintenance issues, etc.  I witnessed violence between the tenants on a couple of occasions, and even received a death threat from a former neighbor.  On the day that neighbor moved out, my car was seriously vandalized. 


There was a stream of bug infestations, mold issues after the sewage incidents, and health scares.  I have lived in fear of illness and disease, retaliation, and for my general safety for four, long years.


SEEKING JUSTICE AND TRANSCENDENCE.  While I wait for the court system to decide if I have a case, with little understanding of what I can really expect, I am being encouraged by caring people to find a way to ‘transcend’ this place and experience.


I adore my pets, and I have one who is very, very special.  This beloved cat suffered through chemotherapy after being diagnosed with nasal lymphoma.   Research says the disease is exacerbated in dogs and cats from second-hand smoke.   That is what we lived with for two years, due to the fact that we have no ‘fire stop’ between the condos.  I had sore throats most mornings, when the former rental tenant lived in the abutting unit; and I found out later that he smoked more than cigarettes in there.  The Trustee I mentioned owned that condo, and did virtually nothing to help. 


I want to spend as much time with my pets as possible, but I find myself not wanting to go home after work.  I want to be able to enjoy their company and relax, and/or do some creative writing or work on my charitable pursuits when I get home each day.   But nothing changes for long in that building.  I have tried meditation, and I’ve begun doing more things outside of the condo, so I don’t have to spend a lot of time there.  But how and when do I get to enjoy a peaceful, safe, respectful home?  I pay two mortgages, rising real estate taxes, and condo fees, and yet I do not feel like this is ‘home.’


Any ideas?  I figured I’d put this out to the ‘Universe’ since I’m not having a lot of luck on my own. 


Just so you know, I joined a spiritual congregation to find some community and to meet folks with similar values. I’ve tried implementing gratitude exercises, too.  I try to list things each day I’m grateful for, including having a roof over my head.  Yet, it sometimes feels hollow, as I struggle with frequent and continuing condo- or building-related annoyances and incidents. 


I could use some guidance, ideas, and insights.  Does anyone have experience transcending a really bad condo experience?  Could use a few ‘there’s light at the end of the tunnel’ stories, if you’ve got’em.  


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* This situation culminated into what I now think of as The Great Raw Sewage Overflow of Summer 2009.  For a couple of days, other people’s fecal matter and tainted water poured into my tub, toilet and dishwasher, and overflowed into my other rooms.  I was terrified for my pets’ health and safety, and we were virtually homeless for a few days.  (I still shudder if I think about it for too long.)

 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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 “Middle Class Lonely”

February 1, 2010 Leave a comment

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On a Sunday afternoon in winter, I urge you to make your way over to Piers Park in East Boston.

There’s no one around.   It’s too cold. 

Walk to the end of the pier, and let the Sun shine on you. 

Ask the Sun to cleanse you…to cleanse your soul, and make you feel fresh and new.

Listen to the sea ducks as they run on the surface of the water before they take flight.

In your mind, take flight with them. 

Banish the loneliness.   Feel connected to All Things as you leave.

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I never knew there was such a thing as being “middle class lonely.”  But after going through this horrible condo situation—I now realize that politicians don’t really care about the individual, and I realize that my friends all have their own lives to live, and that they’re struggling too. 

INVISIBLE MIDDLE CLASS.  There are no programs for the middle class individuals like me who are deemed to have enough money in the eyes of society.  I’m supposed to be able to take care of myself.

So, what if you come up against someone like a ‘bad seed’ Building Developer or Condo Trustee…and you don’t have the money for an attorney to get leverage, and they’ve damaged your property value?  What if dealing with their antics and lies has done damage to your health and sanity, and you’re very tired and fear all this will finally affect your job?   Who’s there for you? 

It’s middle class lonely.   (I never knew.)  Read more…

 THE RAW SEWAGE SAGA

January 27, 2010 Leave a comment
 

Raw Sewage Overflow in Tub, Toilet and Dishwasher (Summer 2009)

THE RAW SEWAGE SAGA.   I mentioned in the previous post that I thought I was doing something good for myself.  That condo purchase was the beginning of a frightful and frustrating drama that made me understand how few rights condo owners have. 

I only found out after the first raw sewage episode, which happened only a month after I moved in, that there had been a machine that sat in front of what is now my condo every two weeks to blow out the pipes.  The Developer/Trustee (who is also the one who sold me the place) paid a plumber to install a new pipe there— without getting proper permits—once he bought the place in 2006.  This was so he could be rid of the machine that blew out the pipes. 

Had this guy told me about these significant plumbing-related details before I bought the place, I would have paid for an inspection—and I would have mostly likely passed on buying the property.  (Decent plumbing is important to some of us gals.)

A couple of months ago, my pets and I were relocated to a local hotel for nearly a week while they tore up my nice, new hardwood floors to put in new pipe.  The workers damaged my property in the process, covering it in dust and debris from the jack hammering and dirt under the flooring.   You would think that it would be enjoyable to have time with my pets in a hotel, but trying to get my work deadlines accomplished while splitting my time between the hotel and office was exhausting.  My pets were stressed, too.  And no one should be forced to share one room with a crepuscular, grumpy bunny.  Read more…

 Raw Sewage in America!

January 26, 2010 Leave a comment
Raw Sewage Overflow Lasting Two Days! (Summer 2009)

I thought I was doing something good for myself.  

Bought a condo in 2007.   It was supposed to be a good thing.  Instead it has been two and a half years of horror.  My experience at this place has been something like the ‘Seven Plagues,’ including:  
  • Raw Sewage Overflows
  • Excessive Noise and Rental Tenant Violence
  • Insect Infestations
  • Second-Hand Smoke Exposure and Compromised Fire Codes
  • Property Maintenance Issues and Financial Deficits
  • Experience of Hostility and the Fear of Retaliation
  • Ongoing Condo Trust Rule Violations 

In my case, the Building Developer, Trustee and Seller were the same person.  I was told not to get a home inspection by the Seller and his Real Estate Agent (who I first believed was my agent), and that if I did, I would lose out on getting a one-year warranty on all the new appliances, cabinets, workmanship, floors, and bathroom.

The Real Estate Agent and the Seller both put pressure on me one night, and the Seller said, “… if you are concerned about money, and if something goes wrong—like the refrigerator dies—you would have to come up with another thousand dollars to get a new one if you choose to get an inspection over my warranty.”  

So, I spoke with my mortgage financing company, and they said an inspection was not mandatory.  However, I had been asking the Seller and his Agent (multiple times) if there were any assessments being planned or if there were any problems with the plumbing or electrical systems.  I was always told “no” and that they had spent a lot of time on the property, and that things were in great shape. 

RAW SEWAGE.  One of the more serious problems I encountered had to do with the raw sewage episodes.  One night, within a month of moving in, raw sewage poured from my tub, toilet and dishwasher for hours.  I was freaked!

There were at least 13 more raw sewage related episodes in the next couple of years, including one that lasted for two days, and ended in my condo unit being condemned during last summer by Boston Inspectors. 

My pets and I were virtually homeless for several days, and I have feared contamination and disease from the sewage all this time – for me and my pets. 

This is just part of the story…

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