Courtesy of The Miami Herald
BY DONNA GEHRKE-WHITE
May 28, 2006
Many seriously damaged condominium complexes are
still scrambling to get their buildings repaired.
''There's a lot more than what you would like to
think,'' says Bill Raphan, the state's assistant condo ombudsman.
For condo associations often facing
multimillion-dollar repair costs, Raphan says, it's not just a matter of finding
workers. Insurance checks have been late or only partially doled out.
Overwhelmed city inspectors have slowed repairs because crews can't continue
until the inspectors approve each new construction phase.
Meanwhile, new problems have arisen, such as
asbestos found in heavily damaged buildings. And condo boards have been forced
to take more time than expected to learn about often complicated renovations and
tougher building codes.
''Oh gosh, the new regulations are absolutely
incredible,'' says Ted McNabney, president of the two-tower Bayview Towers in
Take his towers' roofs.
The once-flat roofs had to be redesigned to slope
toward drains because of the tougher building codes. The final layer of the roof
has to be thicker -- but can't be installed until the roof's plumbing and air
conditioning are fixed. Multiple bids have to be taken for each phase of the
''All this takes time. But it's getting done and
. . . our buildings are going to look fabulous,'' McNabney says.
Many other condos throughout South Florida are
finally getting work done after initial delays. A Miami Herald survey earlier
this month found more than 5,000 Broward homes are still uninhabited -- many of
those condo units.
One building in the heavily damaged Hawaiian
Gardens condominium complex in Lauderdale Lakes may finally be ready for owners
to move back next month, says treasurer Roland Bonnell.
''Things are getting under way and we are
becoming more optimistic,'' Bonnell says.
Some of the 43 other buildings in the Hawaiian
Gardens buildings are still struggling to rebuild. For example, it took months
just to get a clean bill of health and the asbestos removed from the 36-unit
Kahlua Gardens condo, says the building's board president, Jacque Gélinas. A
crew is now working to replace the roof, he says. Other workers will rebuild
walls destroyed by torrential rains that followed Hurricane Wilma.
But, Gélinas says, that work has been delayed
with the city of Lauderdale Lakes being slow to issue permits -- or demanding
new architectural plans that added thousands of dollars to rebuilding costs.
His building has waited months for the insurance
company to dole out cash. So far, it has only gotten a partial payment for the
''We don't even know how much we are getting,'' Gélinas
That has been typical with many condo
associations receiving partial payments and asking for adjustments, assistant
condo ombudsman Raphan says.
''Until you've got money, these vendors are in no
hurry [to do the repairs] because they know they are not going to get paid,''
''The insurance company requires that we pay
premiums on a schedule or they take away their contracts,'' Bonnell adds. "They
should be required to be as responsible.''
Meanwhile, Norma Pickersgill worries about ever
being able to live in her Kahlua Gardens third-floor unit, which was destroyed
by the torrential rains after Wilma.
Right now, she says, she has only "concrete
and four walls. There is nothing inside.''
She's been told she'll have to pay for her own
windows and fork over $4,500 for a special assessment to pay for other repairs
-- money she doesn't have.
''Right now, it's come to desperation,'' she
says. "I don't have any insurance [to replace furniture and renovate her
may end up having to get another mortgage to pay for the assessments. Right now,
she says, her mortgage company won't refinance because of a technicality: The
walls aren't up.