Massive Explosion In New Jersey Condo Complex Leaves One Dead And Many Homeless

guest blog by Nila Ridings 

It is too soon to know if this massive explosion was caused by a gas leak, an improperly marked gas line, or incompetence by contractors…or any other cause.  What is known is one person has lost their life in this condo explosion.  Countless others are homeless or unaccounted for at this time.
A fire marshall once told me this type of situation is their worst nightmare:  People in attached housing. Difficulty knowing who was in the units. And the difficulty of knowing where to begin looking for survivors.  He also mentioned many HOAs have narrow streets that make it difficult to get fire trucks and equipment to the engulfed units.  That is compounded by people parking vehicles on the narrow private streets which impedes the first responders’ access and delays response time.
Sadly, these owners are left with rebuilding (which I would want no part of) and making payments on a place where they cannot live.  In addition, they have HOA dues to pay on a place that is totally destroyed.  And their personal possessions are completely wiped out.  Will they all have insurance to cover the damages?  If they don’t, who pays for the rebuild?  No doubt there will be lawsuits to determine the blame and while those process through the court system the owners continue to suffer.
This makes me think.  If this happened in an apartment complex, victims would find a new apartment and move on to rebuilding their lives.  But in a condo you’re stuck with no say in when, who, how, or if there is a rebuild.  You’re faced with the payments, no place to live, and your life in turmoil and at the mercy of a group of board members to make a decision about your future living arrangement.
Lesson learned.  Condo living is looking even less desirable.  
My heart goes out to all of these condo owners for their suffering and loss.  Sadly, they are facing some very difficult days ahead.

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Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

5 thoughts on “Massive Explosion In New Jersey Condo Complex Leaves One Dead And Many Homeless

  1. Arizona Dave

    Oh, what a mess these poor homeowners will have to deal with! Reminds me of the time we had a building in our condo complex burn to the ground. Thankfully, no-one was injured or died.

    However, after the management company “handled” the rebuild, many homeowners wished they were dead. You see, the manager wanted his friend, the contractor, to do the work. Problem was the contractor/friend needed a higher bond, insurance, and special permits. This delayed the rebuild by 11 months. Some two years later, the poor homeowners, were allowed to move back in.

    Once back in their condos, homeowners found cheap appliances, junk cabinets paper thin carpet and building materials that looked like they were purchased at the five and dime. Substandard workmanship caused roofs to leak and plumbing problems. The contractor/friend went bankrupt a year later.

    Oh, did I mention, the dues increased 20% that year? You see, the insurance rates skyrocketed. And that for 2 years the homeowners were still paying their monthly dues.

    The homeowners got what was given to them, they had 0 say as to what materials were replaced. I can almost bet the manager received a big kickback. The same year of the fire, the manager was driving a new BMW. The cause of the fire was never determined.

    1. tom dee

      They should have just grabbed the insurance check and walked away. HOA are famous for directing work to companies they have interest in.
      Since you cannot sue them you have no right to discovery as is a basic right to all other Americans.

  2. Nila Ridings

    I have heard similar stories Dave. The condo owner is homeless, has no say, and at the mercy of the board. I am surprised condo owners can even buy insurance.

    In a situation like this one with so many units destroyed or damaged, who knows how long these people could be homeless?

    Just another thing to give serious thought to before ever buying in a condo or even accepting one as a gift.

  3. tom dee

    They should take the insurance money and give the keys to the HOA. I feel sorry for the people but I cannot understand why they would rebuild with a homeowner association controlling their lives. There is no requirement to rebuild so why bother>

  4. Deborah Goonan

    How tragic for the woman who lost her life, and the injured workers.

    Chapter 2 will be rebuilding damaged condos, and that will be a huge headache for owners involved, even the ones whose homes sustained no damage. I would never consider a condo purchase, because it seems to me there is no real advantage over renting an apartment. The same can be said for many townhomes governed by HOA or Condo Associations, particularly if assessments cover exterior maintenance and shared HVAC, plumbing or electrical systems. In HOAs with detached homes, there is still the issue of rebuilding your home’s exterior to fit the ever-changing whims of the Architectural Control Committee.

    When common areas adjacent to homes are damaged or not maintained, there is little an adjacent owner can do about it.

    No more HOA living for me. No way I would consider a condo. I am content to rent until I can move into a home that is NOT under HOA rule.


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