Water was slowly leaking into her condo. But the disabled homeowner could not smell the mold until her unit was heavily damaged.
By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Many people who buy into the condominium lifestyle do so expecting both affordability and ease of maintenance. But for 72-year-old Judy Young of Orlando, life at One Thousand Oaks Condominiums is neither affordable nor low maintenance.
WFTV’s Karla Ray reports Young’s heartbreaking condo horror story.
A water leak from her upstairs neighbor’s condo created water and mold damage to her own unit. Because it was a slow leak that occurred over the course of a year, Young didn’t notice any water damage, until it was too late.
Mold grew in an out-of-sight corner of her condo. But the homeowner couldn’t smell the mold. Young had a brain tumor removed several years ago, and that left her with limited short-term memory, and the loss of her sense of smell.
(The evidence of Young’s surgery is obvious from the video report.)
By the time the water leak caused her ceiling to sag, and led to a power failure in half of her unit, the woman’s condo was substantially damaged, and unsafe for living.
To add to the stressful situation, One Thousand Oaks condo association is now billing Young $6,250 for repairs (presumably for mold remediation).
Water and mold damage are also violations of City code, therefore both Young and her upstairs neighbor face code enforcement hearings with the City of Orlando as well.
What a nightmare.
Check out the video report to see the damage to Young’s home.
Mold mess: Woman missing part of brain asks for compassion from condo association
By: Karla Ray, WFTV
Updated: Nov 13, 2018 – 11:31 AM
ORLANDO, Fla. – A 72-year-old Orlando woman is begging for compassion from her condominium association and code enforcement after a leak from the unit above hers made her home unlivable.
That leak knocked out power to half her unit and created a dangerous mold problem. Investigative Reporter Karla Ray saw the problems firsthand and found out the woman couldn’t smell the mold growing in her place, because she’s missing part of her brain.
Around her ground-level Thousand Oaks condominium, 72-year-old Judy Young leaves herself reminders. Those notes include details of when she’s scheduled to meet with her pro-bono lawyer. They’re scattered alongside the mold that’s been growing out of sight in her walls for just more than a year.
The water damage from her upstairs neighbor has caused Young’s ceiling to sag, and even knocked out power to half her unit. That means more problems you can’t see, but you can feel in Florida’s heat.
“No air conditioning, no electricity in half of her unit. Just deplorable conditions,” attorney Andrew Lannon said. Lannon is an attorney for Bogin, Munns and Munns, and is helping Young pro-bono.
Now, Young is now facing a code enforcement case and a demand letter from the Thousand Oaks Condominium Association. Despite acknowledging in the letter that the deplorable conditions are not Young’s fault, the Association wants her to pay more than $6,000 to make repairs to her hazardous home.
Young’s attorney admits his client doesn’t have much of a legal claim, but he’s hoping someone will step in to help her find a new place to live or make the repairs, which she cannot afford.
Young is scheduled to go in front of Orlando’s Code Enforcement Board in January, and the owner of the upstairs condo is scheduled for later this week.
Not an isolated problem
Damage from neighboring units is one of the biggest risks of condo or townhouse living. And water damage tops the list of common problems that plague multifamily housing.
Water infiltration, and the mold and structural damage that usually follows, can occur in several ways. Here are some typical causes.
- Water leaks into condos through improperly sealed windows and doors.
- Roof leaks, due to storm damage or normal deterioration of roof shingles and flashing.
- Gaps in siding, missing mortar between bricks, or cracked stucco allow water to leak into wall cavities or interior surfaces.
- Poor storm water drainage diverts water into units.
- Old, clogged, or defective plumbing leaks.
When water leaks occur, there’s almost always a controversy about who and what caused the damage. Of course, no one wants to pay for repairs, so the blame game begins.
The condo association blames unit owners. Unit owner blame the condo association, or each other.
The reality is, more than one party could be to blame, but everyone will avoid claiming responsibility.
Condo owner always pays, even if not at fault
Condo association documents almost always specify that each condo owner pays for damages in his or her own unit, regardless of who is at fault. And the homeowner’s condo insurance policy may or may not help pay for repairs.
While plumbing repairs and loss of personal belongings might be covered in some cases, mold damage is almost always excluded from coverage.
If a homeowner delays reporting damage, the condo association holds that owner responsible for allowing a small problem to become a bigger problem.
Likewise, the insurance company has even more reason to deny a claim.
Can the homeowner sue?
Young has a legal right to sue the neighbor or the condo association, seeking reimbursement for her damages. But lawsuits and lawyers can be expensive, and there’s no guarantee the homeowner will ever be fully reimbursed for her property damages, temporary housing, or legal fees.
Thankfully, pro bono attorney Andrew Lannon, of Bogin, Munns & Munns, P.A. is helping Young at no cost. Maybe he’ll convince the City of Orlando to either reduce or waive their fines for code violations.
But notice that even Attorney Lannon admits that Young will probably have to pay $6,250 to her condo association, even under these special circumstances.
In the meantime, Young needs a safe place to live.
Today’s post serves as a cautionary tale for housing consumers.
What’s happening to Young is not uncommon. It can happen to any owner of an association-governed condo or townhouse — anwhere in the U.S.