Once ‘unfit for human habitation,’ Orlando condo complex finishes repairing building defects

Article Courtesy of  The Orlando Sentinel

By Caroline Glenn

Published October 19, 2019

Seven years since repairs began, Orlando’s largest condominium complex appears to have righted the shoddy workmanship that for years plagued the condos, racking up millions of dollars in damage, hundreds of code violations and millions of dollars in fines from the city.

The Hamptons at MetroWest, a well-appointed gated community in southwest Orlando, was converted from apartments to condos in the mid-2000s and billed as “the best of MetroWest." But soon, the faulty construction began to show.


Inside the complex of more than 700 units at 6401 Time Square Ave. was mold and mildew, eroding foundations, rotted porch railings and ceilings split from water damage. There were rotting walls, leaky sliding-glass doors, improperly installed windows and nails popping out of the walls, a lawsuit claimed.

The damage was so severe one Orange County judge described the community as “unfit for human habitation.”

For years the walls of the multi-colored condos were marked with large cracks, roofs were covered by blue tarps and the buildings were surrounded by scaffolding and orange traffic cones as the condominium association tried to fix the mess.

Finally, the repairs are done.

“All the cases are now finalized, all the repairs have been made, everything has been inspected, and the city issued a certificate of compliance on all the cases,” said Scott Newsom, an attorney for the Hamptons. “So this was the last step in what has been a very long process."

The Hamptons at MetroWest is pictured on Wednesday, October 16, 2019. The condo association had been plagued by code violations, but has had the fines reduced.

Orlando’s code enforcement board last week agreed to reduce the condo association’s fines from nearly $3 million to just $150,007, as long as the tab is paid by next October. In 2015, the board similarly lowered the association’s fines from $2.3 million to $26,000, which the association paid.

At one point, fines amassed to $4 million.

Newsom estimated the association has spent well more than $22 million on repairs. Beth Monaco, a longtime member of the association, told the board a $10 million loan also was taken out.

The condo association’s only source of revenue comes from assessments paid by tenants. If the fine had not been reduced, Newsom said it would have been devastating to the association’s finances.

Mike Rhodes, economic development deputy director for the city and overseer of code enforcement, said the entire process was “pretty unprecedented."

“It’s been frustrating that the process has taken so long,” he said. “The process went on for the better part of 11 years.”

He said it’s not uncommon for fines for code violations to be lowered.

“For us, it’s not about the fines. It’s about getting the code violations resolved, making sure that the property’s safe,” Rhodes said.

In 2010, the Hamptons had more foreclosures than possibly any other neighborhood in Orlando. More than half the condos were in foreclosure at some point, including the community’s sales center.

Orange County Property Appraiser Bill Donegan at the time told the Orlando Sentinel only 81 property owners lived on the premises. He called it “the worst of the worst.” Newsom said almost all the units are occupied now.

The original apartments, known then as Park Place at MetroWest, were built by Epoch Properties Inc. and converted to condos right before the housing bubble burst. At the time, they went for more than $200,000. Today, some units are listed online for as low as $160,000.

Epoch sold the 70-acre property to Tarragon South Development Corp. and Sunvest Communities for $90 million in 2004. Epoch has maintained the apartments were built to code and argued that the people they sold it to were unqualified.

Four years later, the condo association sued the apartment builders, the condo converters and several other firms who worked on the property, but several had gone bankrupt by that time. Repairs began in 2012.

Newsom said ongoing litigation, unpaid association dues and the substantial amount of work belabored the repair process. Every building was affected, he said.

“You’re talking about 59 buildings," Newsmon said. "You’re taking the entire exterior skin off of some of these buildings. You’re talking about an extensive amount of work.”