Article Courtesy of The
By Mary Shanklin
Published September 23, 2015
Orlando's biggest challenge with building-safety violations
isn't in a blighted area. It's a manicured MetroWest condo community where
landscapers weed and security guards check guests.
The English-themed Hamptons community of 743 condominiums faces $4 million in
code-enforcement fines for violations — the largest tab in the city, according
to Orlando officials.
"Some of it is as much the responsibility of the individual owners as anything,"
said Mike Rhodes, who oversees code enforcement for Orlando. "Obviously part of
the challenge is associated with operating a property that's that big."
Behind the fountains and gated entry are electrical hazards resulting from
exposed and broken conduit lines, ceilings split from water damage, a collapsed
driveway, an eroding building foundation, excessive mold and mildew, and rotted
porch railings, according to recently filed code violations.
The problems have been so severe that Orange County Circuit Judge Lisa T. Munyon
earlier this year categorized units at the Hamptons as "unfit for human
habitation" because of "catastrophic water intrusion damages." Engineering
reports showed 90 percent of the units showed some type of damage. In an ongoing
case, the judge cited $70 million in needed repairs and ordered developers to
pay the condo owners association $40 million.
The association "has uncovered systemic building code violations which has
caused and continues to cause catastrophic property damage," Munyon wrote in her
February judgment against Epoch Properties and Park Avenue at Metrowest Ltd.
Built as Park Place apartments by Jim Pugh's Epoch Properties and others in
2000, the project was purchased by Tarragon South Development Corp. and Sunvest
Communities for $90 million in 2004 and converted into the Hamptons
Developers described it as "the best of MetroWest" but construction defects
began to emerge. Six years after the sale, the association sought more than $60
million in damages.
Pugh has said the Hamptons was built to meet construction standards but condo
converters sold to buyers who failed to maintain and care for the units.
James Prichard of Ball Janik, the lead attorney for the Hamptons condominium
association, said Epoch Properties constructed the units as apartments and they
were later converted into condos, "but even apartments — if you believe the
assertion that they are built to a lower standard than condominiums — aren't
supposed to leak from day one. Buildings in an apartment community shouldn't
fall apart in seven years, and that's what we see at the Hamptons."
The Hamptons, he added, are representative of condominiums and apartments built
during the pre-recession period throughout Orlando, and Central Florida in
"I genuinely believe that every similar aged wood-frame apartment building or
condominium conversion in Central Florida, clad with thin-coat stucco and
single-pane aluminum windows, is probably as bad or worse than the Hamptons,"
Florida property owners in particular get a false sense of security about their
buildings because "the lawns are manicured; they have beautiful clubhouses,
modern amenities, and new paint. But when you look closely, or examine the wood
framing behind the pretty exterior, you see major problems."
In the shopping district of the Hamptons, workers on elevated machinery recently
repaired building facades and framework. What's unclear about the repairs,
though, is whether there will be enough money to fix the problems. In addition
to repairs, the legal tab for the case will run 40 percent of recovered damages.
Last month, the courts granted an extension for contractors' insurance companies
and subcontractors to settle up.
No one from the association would comment on the lawsuit or repair progress.
Orlando attorney Jim Byrd, who represents the association, released a statement
that reads in part: "Community improvements are ongoing and substantial, and the
Association, Board and management are committed to continuing this process and
are working hard toward that end every single day."
Longtime association board member and former president Beth Monaco, who works
for the Hamptons' longtime property management company, declined to comment. She
serves as a manager for First Residential Services, abstaining from
condo-association votes regarding her employer's contract and holiday gifts for
her fellow FRS employees. She also abstained earlier this year on a minor
surveying contract awarded to her husband, Robert Monaco of Tinklepaugh
Surveying Services Inc., association meeting minutes show.
Hamptons condo owner John Glazar complimented Monaco's service to the
association during the years-long construction litigation: "If it wasn't for
her, nothing would have gotten done."
Glazar bought a condo at the Hamptons for $215,000 a decade ago when he
relocated to Orlando from New York. The two-bedroom unit is now worth less than
half what he paid for it.
He had some water damage in a vestibule closet but that's been repaired and he
enjoys the community pool, lake and restaurant. Eventually, he said, the damages
throughout the community should be repaired and his condo should be worth more
than the mortgage on it.
"I have no other choice but to ride it out," the former real estate appraiser