Should River Towers Condo residents give up their rights to sue?

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


In early October, residents of building No. 31 in River Towers Condominiums were evacuated when one wing of the building suddenly shifted. Fairfax County engineers soon determined the cause was years of water damage and deterioration of steel support columns on the portico.

Some of the building’s residents were permitted to return to their units, but 32 units in the front wing of the building remain off limits until the condo association can make necessary repairs. According to reports, the repair involves jacking up the building and replacing all of the steel columns with new support structures. That process could take months.

Residents of the 32 units affected have been paying for alternate lodging, and have been legally obligated to continue paying their condo assessments, even though they are no able to live in their units.

This circumstance is not out of the ordinary. Typically, a condo owner must continue to pay assessments No Matter What, even if their unit is uninhabitable due to damage of any kind. For example, if units were damaged in a fire, but not entirely destroyed, the condo association normally continues to collect assessments, although sometimes as a reduced rate, to offset non-use of utilities while the damaged units remain vacant.

Usually, a unit owner’s insurance policy will help cover some of those expenses, but, in this case, owners say their insurance companies are unwilling to reimburse them for condo expenses until they get “definitive answers” about exactly what happened at River Towers.

Residents have asked the condo association to waive their assessments during the 6-months it will take to complete repairs so that they can safely move back into their homes. The condo association has been consulting with legal experts on how they might accommodate that request. River Towers has created a page on the Association’s website that keeps residents updated on the status of repairs to portico columns for all three buildings, as well as the status of insurance coverage and additional interior repairs that will be necessary for the damaged 32 units.

A few days ago, WTOP reported that the condo association has officially offered to waive condo assessments for displaced residents, but only if they agree not to sue the Association!

Needless to say, that’s not going over well at all. County and state officials are now involved in the resolution process. So far, no one has agreed to the terms of the Association’s settlement offer.


Displaced residents balk at collapsed condo settlement offer

By Neal Augenstein | @AugensteinWTOP
November 18, 2016 2:06 pm

WASHINGTON — Residents of a partially collapsed condominium in Fairfax County can avoid condo fees on units they can’t live in — if they promise never to sue the owners’ association.

Residents of River Towers Condominium, in the county’s Alexandria section, still face months of repairs before they could return to their units, almost six weeks after one wing of the building dropped and shifted several inches due to years of water damage.

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