Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Where would you go if you found yourself suddenly unemployed and evicted from your apartment? Or what if your family were displaced from your home following a foreclosure, a fire, or a natural disaster?
For individuals and families on limited incomes, finding available housing can be extremely difficult.
Enter condo motels.
Imagine a cheap motel turned into an extended stay lodging. Certainly not as luxurious as a Hilton or Marriott property. Cramped quarters, a tiny refrigerator, a noisy and inefficient heating and air conditioner unit under the window.
What if you had to live like this for months or longer?
And what if management charged you $950 per month rent, plus $75 per month to park one vehicle? Or what if you had to pay $280 per week rent so you, your spouse, and three children would have a roof over your heads?
And then…after you pay your rent, utility companies shut off the water and the electricity.
Welcome to Heritage Park Inn of Kissimmee, Florida.
Electricity shut off at troubled Kissimmee condo-motel
WFTV Channel 9 VIDEO
Updated: Oct 20, 2016 – 5:51 PM
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Residents at a troubled Kissimmee condo-motel are once again living without electricity.
The poor conditions at the Heritage Park Inn have been plaguing residents for months.
The power was cut off Wednesday and was still out Thursday afternoon.
Residents also got a notice their water would be shut off Thursday, so the owners made a last-minute payment, but the full balance has to be paid by Monday.
Tenant Dawn Felez said the food has spoiled in her refrigerator and she’s getting fed up with the issues.
You may be wondering, what the heck is a condo – motel?
(NOTE: This is not to be confused with the condo hotel, usually constructed and marketed as luxury resort investment property. See here for an explanation. Think Hilton, Starwood, Trump, Ritz-Carlton. Quite a few financial experts consider condo hotels a poor investment.)
As the name implies, a condo-motel is a low-end condo hotel. Generally, it’s a motel set up as a condominium association, where members can own one unit or mulitple units, and then rent them out on a short-term basis. Typical renters for a condo – motel could include tourists and travelers. But, increasingly, the condotel is becoming home to thousands of low income households and transients in urban areas of Florida and nationwide.
These are households at risk for homelessness, such as low-income seniors, families with children, the unemployed and under employed. But that’s not all. Women and children escaping from domestic abuse. Ex-convicts with poor credit, unable to pass a background check for standard rental apartments. People struggling with substance abuse.
Yes, condo hell affects these people, too. As if their lives were not already chaotic enough.
At Heritage Park Inn, the back story is a bitter dispute between the motel owner/manager and condo association. Each one thinks the other should pay for utility bills. The battle is being fought in civil court. But in the meantime, it seems that no one is paying the utility companies.
This has been going on for months. Here are two reports from August 2016.
Unpaid water bills:
Water woes for residents at the Heritage Park Inn
Updated: Aug 4, 2016 – 5:37 PM WFTV Channel 9 VIDEO
Huge unpaid electric bill:
Troubled Kissimmee hotel owes thousands
WESH – Orlando Videos August 17, 2016
A last minute anonymous donation saved 70-80 families who live at the troubled Heritage Park Inn in Kissimmee from being left in the dark
Troubled Heritage Park Inn owes thousands; families could be left in dark
Updated: 6:50 PM EDT Aug 17, 2016
KISSIMMEE, Fla. —
A last-minute anonymous donation saved 70-80 families who live at the troubled Heritage Park Inn in Kissimmee from being left in the dark.
The Kissimmee Utilities Authority had threatened to shut off the power at the troubled Heritage Park Inn, saying it was owed more than $20,000. Even with the donation, the hotel still owes KUA $12,000, officials said.
“They ask no questions. They don’t care how many kids we have. They don’t care whether or not you have pets,” said Edward Phillips, who has lived here for three weeks. “They just say, ‘Hey, you have money, we’ve got a place.’”
Phillips pays $280 a week to live in a cramped hotel room with his wife and three kids aged 2, 7 and 9. The unemployed IT professional pays more than $1,100 a month to put a roof over their heads.
But while he pays his bills, Heritage Park Inn has not done the same. On Aug. 5, the water was shut off for most of the day after the water company said it was owed more than $3,000. A church donation saved residents.
More about Heritage Park Inn
Declaration of Condominium (May 2005)
Amendment to Declaration of Condominium (December 2005): “Directors need not be members of the Association”