Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel
By Mary Shanklin
Published June 2, 2017
Polk County resident Laurel Harris and a handful of
Legacy Grand condo owners — including a few full-time residents — have been
put on notice by their association that the Kissimmee property is becoming a
The main reason the condo association at Legacy Grand is able to transition
the condo property into a hotel, against the wishes of some owners, is that
an ownership group holds more than 80 percent of the units and controls the
The “takeover,” as Harris and her
attorney call it, is a new twist on something that has been
happening in Florida for years: Investors bought apartments
at the height of the real estate market and tried to sell
them as condos. But the real estate market crashed and left
the buildings largely empty. Throughout the state, investors
who accumulated large shares of units have been able to
pressure the few remaining owners into selling so they could
control the entire property.
Legacy Grand filed plans with Osceola County in March to
make the switch from condo to hotel within 60 days — a
timeframe that just ended. Any hope for the owners to get
paid rest with the courts as the property comes under one
ownership group that has filed for bankruptcy, records show.
The bankruptcy will cover the entire property as it becomes
a hotel. At that time, owners of the project may sell the
hotel and unit owners would get a share of the sales
proceeds, plans show.
“They have not offered anything for our unit,” said Harris, who bought the
unit with her mother for $15,000 in 2013. They have rented it out and used
it as an occasional vacation spot, but they recently emptied out the
furnishings — including a 60-inch television in anticipation of being locked
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The group that controls Legacy Grand, C.C. LLC, could not be reached for
comment. Its registered agent, Safety Harbor lawyer Kent Runnells, would not
clarify the legal path of the condo termination and bankruptcy.
In 2015, the state set to protect owners who resided full-time in condos by
passing reforms that gave them more leverage in the sale negotiations and
additional money to relocate. The reforms did not help some vacation-home
owners, such as Harris at Legacy Grand. Even residents who lack the
homestead exemption status needed to establish their condos as their homes.
“It shouldn’t make a difference whether you live there or not. If you don’t
live there, you’re generating income for the state of Florida and then
you’re not protected,” said Harris, an administrator at a construction
company. “It’s sending a message that they don’t want your business here.”
One reason condo terminations have become popular is that investors gain the
ability to buy out owners and manage the entire property, instead of just
chunks of it. Investors have said conversions can better serve the complexes
by giving them a sense of overall unity and direction.
Orlando attorney Justin Clark said several of his clients who own units
there, including Harris, are being overpowered by an ownership group simply
because it has amassed the overwhelming majority of units and rewrote condo
rules to turn the property into a hotel.
“Just like the developers are being creative in their attempt to seize the
property of my clients, I think the individual owners must be creative in
their fight to save them,” he said.
Harris said she has been trying to get to the bottom of what — if anything —
she and her mother could expect to get for their unit.
The property management group emailed her this month stating that the
financial information she requested was unavailable.
Judicial Arbiter Gregory D. Hoffman cited the Legacy Grand ownership group
in 2011 for co-mingling rental income and sales proceeds from the Legacy. He
found that condo converters, including Celebration resident Ralph Kirkland
and Lithia resident Ken Franklin Jr., had “engaged in deceptive practices,
made material and misleading representations and omissions which were relied
on by buyers” to convince them they were making a safe investment that would
be rewarded with rental income. The arbiter awarded nine condo unit owners
more than $3 million in damages, but a bankruptcy has delayed those
payments, records show.
Kirkland said he sold his share in 2010, lost his money during the downturn
and has been residing with his wife in one of the Legacy Grand units for
“There are people who, like me, live there. There are families there and
renters,” he said. “And they are all going to get put out on the street.”
Franklin could not be reached for comment.
Records indicate Harris and owners of several dozen other units had until
May 24 to remove their furnishings, appliances, decor and renters. The
notice the ownership group sent in March stated: “all personal property
belonging to any unit owner and not a part of the condominium shall be
removed from the unit(s).”
Harris said Thursday the door locks do not seem to have been changed yet but
the association is positioned to take over since it submitted plans months