Ouch - condo assessments


Article Courtesy of the News Leader

Published November 16, 2005


To an owner of a condominium, a special assessment is a scourge that usually arises without notice and hits like a falling tree.

A special assessment is a fee levied on each unit of a condominium complex to collectively pay for an expense or repair. The repair is not always for your condo, however, and could just as likely be for your neighbor's unit - or to fix the community pool, or to re-roof or re-paint the entire complex, for instance.

Many times, they are levied after a major disaster, such as a hurricane. While the overall condominium complex is normally covered by insurance to pay for a catastrophe, the special assessment can go toward the deductible.

Here on Amelia Island, one condominium complex is em-broiled in a nasty dispute between the owners and its board. In most cases, the board consists of condominium owners who run for the elected, unpaid seats.

This is the case at Forest Ridge Village, a picturesque condominium complex on First Avenue. However, many of the condominium owners are trying to evict the board over a $24,000-per-unit special assessment that is being proposed.

With more than 100 condos in the complex, this amounts to some $2.5 million in assessments that will be used for general repairs. The intent is good. The cost is not - since many owners live in their modest units full-time and cannot afford the assessment.

Other owners rent out their units as an investment. Many of them, however, are also howling about such a steep assessment. The dispute is heading toward a climactic conclusion, as a vote to oust the existing board - and the special assessment - is due this month. Another board of non-assessing types is being proposed as an alternative.

Not coincidentally, the first installment of the special assessment is being billed to owners this month. Owners have been offered a payment plan over three billings. This still means that $8,000 must be paid immediately by each owner, or else liens and other fees could be applied to their units.

At many condominiums, there are also homeowners' dues that must be paid each month. This money is supposed to pay day-to-day expenses, with any additional funds held in a reserve. The reserves could be used for special needs, instead of resorting to an assessment.

Not only has the new board initiated the steep assessment, but it also has installed a property manager at a reported annual salary of $51,000 per year. The manager will oversee the repairs, which the board contends will improve the quality of the units - and also push up their prices.

This does not help those owners who cannot come up with $24,000 in a short period of time. Their only option would be to sell their units, presumably against their wishes.

One owner at Forest Ridge did not know where her monthly $250 homeowners dues are going. "That's a good question," she said.

Steve Nicklas is a financial adviser who lives on Amelia Island.

Get the facts straight

In your Nov. 16, edition, Steve Nicklas wrote an article ("Ouch - condo assessments") about the Forest Ridge Village condo complex that was full of errors and very misleading.

Our complex is in a major state of disrepair to the point that the city has warned us of possible condemnation of certain buildings if repairs aren't done promptly. Why are they in this condition? Because other boards tried to schedule repairs, but the same people complaining now stopped them due to unwillingness to pay. As the old TV commercial used to say, "You can pay me now, or pay me later." Our roofs are over 20 years old, 70 percent of our siding is rotten, the buildings experience extensive water intrusion and, as a result, significant termite and water damage exists. That's why it's going to cost $24,000 per unit to make the required repairs. Later is now.

As to our owners, less than 30 percent are full-time residents. The rest are second homes or rental units. Our property manager doesn't make $51,000 per year; he makes less than half of that.

The homeowner who doesn't know where her $250 per month goes apparently doesn't read her mail. The 2005 budget was mailed to all owners last January. It detailed by line item the amounts for insurance (our largest single expense), repairs, landscape, pool and pond maintenance, utilities, etc. She could stop by the association office and ask for a copy of the budget.

In the future, please do a little more research, get more than one disgruntled owner's opinion and misleading, inaccurate statements. You owe it to your readers to get the facts straight about a fine complex like Forest Ridge Village.

Steve Jordan, Board president, Atlanta

An Opinion By Jan Bergemann

December 3, 2005


Get The Facts Straight? 

That would be great!

That's always a winning proposal -- wouldn't everybody think so?  But shouldn't the person who is accusing somebody else of not getting the facts straight get his own facts straight?
                 Like-- oops -- throwing rocks when sitting in a glass house?


All I know is the fact that obviously a majority of the unit owners agree with Steve Nicklas -- and not with Steve Jordan, the board president.  What do I base my opinion on?  If they would be more agreeable to the opinion of the board president, the owners wouldn't have recalled Jordan and his fellow board members by written petition, as specified in the regulations of Florida's Condo Act. 


For me, that's a clear proof that a majority of the members are unhappy!  Wouldn't you agree?  Happy unit owners are not known to file recall petitions against their board members.


The only reason the recall wasn't certified?  The board is hiding behind the excuse of insufficient ballots, because they quickly added 24 'ghost units' to the total number of units.  These 'ghost units' were in the original plans, but were never built and never had any dues-paying members!  This decision will cost the association members even more money -- money that is already in short supply in this association.


I can never understand these "volunteer" board members that cling to their power with the help of high-paid attorneys, even if they realize that their "services" are no longer wanted by the majority of the unit owners!

Maybe there are other reasons to try to stay in power?