Sewage backups a problem for St. Cloud condo complex, trailer community

guest blog by Deborah Goonan

There is a national misconception that HOAs are all prestigious gated communities or luxury condos for the wealthy. That’s just not the case. The vast majority of HOAs across the country are home to people of all income brackets.

Florida, like many other states, has its share of “affordable” and low-income housing in Associations. Most of these are multifamily arrangements such as low-rise condos and townhouses, or trailer parks where residents lease lot space.

But in St. Cloud, FL (Osceola County), owners in Palm Gardens condominium complex and Floridian RV Park have something to make a big stink about – literally. They’ve got sewage backing up when it rains, and bubbling up from the street and into yards. Their children cannot safely play in contaminated areas. The stench is terrible, and owners and residents are frustrated.

Florida DEP and Osceola County have been slow to respond. Palm Gardens condo owners have been told they will each have to come up with $3000 to rebuild the entire system, but few can afford that much money. They already pay $165 per month maintenance fees to the condo association.

It is unclear who will pay for repairs in both of these low-income residential neighborhoods, and perhaps that’s part of the reason these issues have festered so long.

This is another shining example of what can go wrong when public works are privatized: poorly built infrastructure, no regular maintenance or inspections of the system, finger-pointing and blame-shifting when inevitable problems come to the surface. Local governments say that the owners in the private community should pay for repairs. Owners say that building inspectors and code enforcement should have been doing their jobs all along. HOA and Condo Boards, with little guidance and oversight, have been allowed to underfund reserves or squander money over the years, and now owners cannot come up with hefty special assessments. They wonder, “Where did all our money go?”

Where indeed.

Palm Gardens condo complex

Floridian RV Park, WFTV Video coverage

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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.

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