By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Reports of HOA leaders making poor decisions just keep on coming. Today’s examples: a California board’s inaction leads to preventable accident; a Colorado HOA’s impulsive decision leaves residents in the cold; an Iowa condo board and its insurance contractors botch a post-fire reconstruction project.
California — HOA refused to remove dangerous tree. Then it destroyed the home of a retired Veteran and his wife.
Beginning in 1996, Lela and Steve Grossack warned the Casta Del Sol homeowners association about the huge Aleppo pine tree in the common area, towering over their home. But, according to a report in the Orange County Register, no matter how many times the Grossacks begged the HOA to remove the tree, their requests were ignored.
Steve is a retired Navy Veteran and a cancer survivor. In January 2019, the 79-year-old was in his bedroom when the huge pine tree came crashing down on his house, very close to where he lay sleeping.
Steve wasn’t hurt, but the falling tree left a gaping hole in the roof.
Shortly after the tree fell, the HOA’s insurance adjuster, Sedgwick Claims Management, sent the homeowners a denial letter for their damages claim. Sedgwick wrote that the falling tree was “outside the care and control” of the homeowners association.
Casta de Sol Association’s attorney calls the accident an “act of God,” and insists the HOA bears no responsibility to pay for repairs to the Grossacks’ home.
But the homeowners don’t agree.
Homeowners sue HOA, with help
The homeowners blame the HOA for not removing the tree from the common area. They say the tree had turned brown over the past ten years, and the danger was obvious.
The owners could not remove the tree themselves, because it wasn’t rooted on their property. They were completely at the mercy of their HOA. But the HOA took no action, despite years of repeated requests from the homeowners.
Due to the high cost of premiums, the Grossacks have no homeowner’s insurance. But the estimated cost to repair their home is about $70,000.
Living on fixed incomes, the Grossacks don’t have that kind of money. For months, they’ve been living in the house with blue tarp covering the hole in roof.
Attorney Johnanthony Alaimo, Veterans Legal Institute, heard about the Grossacks’ plight, and decided to help. He’s currently representing Steve Grossack. Alaimo hired an expert, who says the tree that fell on his client’s home was attacked by beetles. The tree was “sick” and should have been removed before the accident.
Alaimo arranged for a contractor to begin repair work, and recently filed a claim against Cast del Sol, seeking reimbursement of costs to repair the Grossacks’ home.
In the meantime, Steve continues to fight serious health problems, waiting for a court decision in his lawsuit against his Casta del Sol HOA.
Navy veteran fights HOA after tree falls on his house
Colorado — Condo association turned heat off too early, and won’t turn it back on.
According to a report from CBS4 Denver, Peter Hansen and his neighbors have been living without heat in The Royal Oak Condos for the past several weeks.
In his 70s, Hansen has been using space heaters and an electric blanket, trying to stay warm in a spring cold snap, following a recent snowstorm. The temperature in his condo barely hit 55 degrees.
In Colorado it’s not that uncommon to see wild temperature swings and crazy weather patterns at this time of year. A few weeks ago, Denver hit 80 degrees for one day, so his condo board decided to turn off the heat to the building.
But when temperatures dropped below freezing, the condo association refused to turn the heat on again.
When residents complained, the condo manager blamed the board for the decision to keep the heat off, so they could save some money.
So, even though Hansen pays $1,300 per month for a one-bedroom unit, he cannot count on the HOA to keep the building warm. Plus, he’ll pay a higher electric bill this month, to keep his space heaters running.
After CBS4’s report earlier this week, the City of Denver planned to inspect the condo units for compliance with health codes and regulations. No updates have been posted at the time of this post.
City to Inspect Condos after HOA Leaves Heat Turned off During Snowstorm
By Tori MasonMay 21, 2019 at 5:46 pm | CBS 4 Denver
Iowa — Condo fire and re-construction blunders displace 35 seniors and disabled adults for more than a year.
Iowa condo owner, Nanette LaVia, and her 35 of her neighbors have not been able to return to their homes since a fire ripped through their building on January 1, 2018.
And investigate report by the Des Moines Register paints a grim picture for former residents of the destroyed building at Plumwood Terrace Condominiums in Urbandale. Most of them, according to the report, are “elderly or disabled” adults.
LaVia explains that untangling the insurance mess and obtaining permits took almost a year.
During that time, condo reserve funds disappeared, and the board approved a $245,000 loan without informing members of its purpose. LaVia and others have questioned the association’s actions, but the HOA still won’t give straight answers.
Frustrated and concerned, LaVia filed a lawsuit against the condo association and its President, with a trial scheduled for spring of 2020.
Then Plumwood Terrace finally began construction on a new building in November 2018. But the process came to a screeching halt in April, when an engineer discovered serious structural problems.
Due to an engineering error, the walls of the building began to bow under the structure’s own weight.
That’s never a good sign.
Now city inspectors and experts are working on a plan to lift the building and strengthen its foundation. If that doesn’t work, they’ll have the tear the building down and start from scratch.
In the meantime, condo owners have been obligated to make mortgage payments as well as stay current on their condo fees. All of them have been renting an apartment elsewhere. Most condo owner insurance policies pay for one years’ worth of rent, but it has been more than a year since owners have been displaced.
And while construction continues, owners in the remaining three buildings of Plumwood Terrace have faced additional problems. Last spring, a flash flood reportedly totaled several cars in the parking areas, and ruined elevators in two buildings. The elevators still aren’t working. ♦
First fire damage, now structural issues in new building. Urbandale condo owners desperate for answers.
Lee Rood, Des Moines Register | Published 7:50 a.m. CT May 23, 2019 | Updated 11:01 a.m. CT May 23, 2019