River Towers Condo residents frustrated by lack of information

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


As reported on October 2, dozens of residents were evacuated from River Towers Condominium when structural columns suddenly shifted, dropping the entire high-rise building several inches. Fairfax County engineers have since evaluated the structural damage, and deemed affected units unsafe. In fact, all three towers show signs of years of water infiltration, resulting in structural defects to wooden support columns that support the weight of each of the condo towers.

It’s clear the problem needs to be fixed. The question is, who will do the work and how will condo owners pay for it? Behind the scenes, there is probably a good deal of finger-pointing, political posturing, and blame-shifting going on. Why didn’t the condo association properly maintain these columns? Why didn’t Fairfax County building inspectors notice degradation that took place over the decades? Will insurance cover this loss or not? Who will help residents and owners defray the costs of temporary housing?

What usually happens with these kinds of disasters in Association Governed Housing is that resolution to the issue takes months, if not years. There are too many people involved, and they usually have competing interests.

If these displaced residents are tenants, they should be looking for another apartment, and working on retrieving their personal belongings. They should consider themselves lucky, in that they were able to escape personal injury and they won’t have to pay for costly repairs like the condo owners at River Towers.

Yes, it stinks that they have to move. Moving can be expensive and stressful. But it certainly beats living in a hotel or the basement of family members, getting no answers from the condo association. In most cases, tenants cannot attend Association meetings, and they have no say over if and when repairs will be made.

Condo owners certainly have a  big expensive mess on their hands. Many may be unable to afford the inevitable special assessments. Others will object that the cost of repairs in relation to the value of each condo unit is too high, and, therefore, a bad investment. If the repairs are not made, many condo units become uninhabitable by owners or tenants.

River Towers may ultimately be considered for redevelopment. That would involve a lengthy and complex process that could also take years.

All of it could have been avoided if River Towers Condo owners had properly maintained their building envelope over the decades. But it is likely that owners serving on the condo board were not very knowledgeable about how to maintain vintage high-rise construction. The condo board had to rely on experts to guide them. (There are two building engineers on staff.) Were those experts knowledgeable? Did the condo association board listen to their advice? Did the owners know what was going on, and intentionally choose to put off certain expensive maintenance projects?

There are many, many questions. But because a condo association is a private organization, there likely won’t be any open meetings. Residents, owners, and especially the media are likely to receive very few answers.


Displaced residents provided with no date for return, due to structural issues
By Anna-Lysa Gayle/ABC7 Wednesday, October 12th 2016
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (ABC7) — In a meeting that lasted for a little more than an hour, displaced residents waited for answers at the River Towers Condominiums; but they did not get those answers.

“As you can see, I’m always in my flip flops. I can’t even get anything to wear. My sneakers, my son’s jacket, everything it’s in the building,” said Rita Woode who showed us the hotel that she has been living in for 10 days, with her 11-year-old son and her husband.

On Oct. 2, the columns beneath their condo slipped several inches, causing structural damage to building’s exterior and interior.

Read more: (Video)

2 thoughts on “River Towers Condo residents frustrated by lack of information

  1. I was once the President of a 450 Unit Condo complex, the age of the complex was at that time already 22 years old 6 buildings in all. Nice units with actual wooding burning fireplace, which you will have a very hard time finding in Denver now days. , 2, 3 bedroom units. Yes the cost to keep these buildings maintain was getting higher and higher by the month, until one day one of the buildings stair cases became a danger to the residents of that building. The cost to replace that stair case ran from a low bid $380,000 to $ 560,000 dollars. Many residents figure only the residents of that building had to pay for a new stair case. Sorry to tell them it would cost every resident a onetime fee of $1,250 dollars per unit, plus the fact we needed a new roof on every building another cost, ended up being $8,500/per unit. OMG, you would have thought I was the worst person in that complex it took over 5 meetings to tell these people due to negligence over the years by previous board members due diligences of care that deferred maintenance instead of schedule maintenance practice in place these issues might not have happen. I make it a rule when buying or looking into buying a condo or a townhome…. Never buy a condo or townhome that is over 20 years old for which schedule maintenance is not a part of their schedule of repairs on a yearly base. Best way to check these matters out is through your City or County code enforcement if any of these buildings/units have a record of citation to correct. If not most owners will find themselves with declining property values and could face health issues such as mold along with litigation. It’s not a mix I would buy into too. If you own such a unit, you might want to rethink your strategy of how you will deal with this along with your board of directors. I sold my unit asap and got out, sometimes you would be better off renting.

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