guest blog by Deborah Goonan
St. Petersburg’s Signature Place condo is in the news again. Condo owners have known for months that there were construction defects with leaky windows. Well, now that portions of stucco have been removed and walls have been opened up to assess the extent of the problem, it turns out that someone forgot to put re-bar in the concrete walls. Oh, and, by the way, the stucco job has allegedly been botched, too. The Condo Board is concerned that residents or pedestrians walking by the tower could be injured by falling stucco. Not a concern to be taken lightly with Florida’s offshore winds and threats of hurricanes.
The owners are looking at major construction noise and disruption through December 2016. Although there is pending litigation between the Association and the Developer Joe Cantor and several construction companies, these are apparently emergency repairs that cannot wait for a painstakingly slow legal process. So condo owners are facing hefty special assessments, spread out over 10 years of monthly assessment increases.
According to the Tampa Bay Times report, those assessments range from about $10,000 to $132,000, depending on the size of the condo unit, with many around $50,000. Sale prices of units have ranged from units auctioned off in the $200-300 thousand range to $1.3 million for the grand penthouse. Owners of the more modestly priced units will be hit hardest, because they are living on relatively modest fixed incomes.
Of course, construction defect litigation can drag on for several years. Who knows if condo owners will recoup any of this money. Quite often, the Association is lucky to end up with about half of what it actually costs to fix shoddy construction, by the time the attorneys are paid.
And what are the chances that all of these condo owners will be able and willing to pay these huge assessments? Even spread out over ten years, will it still be “affordable living” in this proclaimed “monumental piece of art?