Hurricane Ian’s  storm surge took less than 24 hours to flood homes and rip down walls, but some Southwest Florida homeowners have waited more than 10,000 hours for their homes to be livable again.


Nine residents of Naples' Vanderbilt Towers III, which stands just off the Gulf near Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, have banded together to file an injunction against their homeowner’s association after their first-floor condos were gutted down to the studs and concrete, and then left exposed to the open air.

They have remained so until January of 2024.

“The whole first floor was wide open,” said condo owner Nancy Penoyer. Penoyer is one of the nine first-floor condo owners suing the Vanderbilt III HOA. “You can walk condo-to-condo through the studs. The whole first floor is unlivable.

“I begged them to put up plywood just to close it in," Penoyer said. "They wouldn’t. They said it was too expensive."


In a year and a half, the first-floor condominium owners have not been able to get back into their condos. Some relied on the condos as a source of income, renting them out for chunks of the year. Others utilized the condos as their primary residence.

The Vanderbilt III condominiums in Naples are shown on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023.


As a result, the condo owners have filed against their HOA, requesting the association enclose the condos, turn over the insurance funds designated for repairs, install doors, restore utilities to the condos, repair lanais or refund the monies designated for lanai repair to the owners so they can proceed with repairs, and more.

The suit alleges breach of fiduciary duty and declaration, and as such requests equitable relief and appointment of a receiver.


“The association has utterly failed in obligations to restore the units," the injunction reads. "The association has failed to commence any repairs whatsoever, to distribute even a single dollar of insurance proceeds to the first floor owners, to submit all relevant and necessary insurance claims, or to provide the first floor owners with the information and clarifications they have repeatedly requested.
Damage from Hurricane Ian remains visible on the ground floor at the Vanderbilt III condominiums in Naples on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023.

“The first floor owners have repeatedly requested information, disbursement of insurance proceeds, the commencement of repairs, and for performance of the association’s obligations, all of which have been generally ignored.”

Yet, the first floor owners continue to be responsible for assessment fees levied by the association, in addition to the $4,500 quarterly dues.

And indeed, when The News-Press / Naples Daily News journalists visited Vanderbilt Towers III in December 2023 and again in January 2024, they found that while the first floor had been stripped back to concrete flooring and studs, it has yet to be repaired. Not even plywood was nailed up to the outside of the building to protect it from the elements; strangers could wander through the downstairs without issue.

Damage from Hurricane Ian remains visible on the ground floor at the Vanderbilt III condominiums in Naples on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. The units remain gutted from water and storm damage.


Penoyer even said she'd had bicycles and other expensive or cherished items stored in her demo'd condo go missing, thanks to the walls being gone. Recently, she said, the condo has put up sliding glass doors to enclose the first floor, but the damage was already done.

Vanderbilt III HOA president John Dalia declined to comment beyond saying that he had worked for ten months to get construction underway, and that they were on schedule. He said he believed it would be finished soon but could not commit to a date.

"We are doing everything possible to deliver the units to our owners and get them back in their houses," Dalia said.

Hurricane Ian's storm surge reached a height of more than ten feet at Delnor-Wiggins Pass, effectively drowning Vanderbilt III's entire first floor.

The Category 4 storm directly and indirectly killed more than 150 people and was responsible for more than $112 billion in damage in the U.S. More than $110 billion of that damage was specific to Florida, making it the costliest hurricane in Florida history, a 2023 report by the National Hurricane Center found.

To-date, insurers have reported a total of nearly $20 billion in estimated insured losses and a total of more than 750,000 claims to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, data shows.

Many, like Penoyer and her neighbors, are still displaced by the hurricane as they wait for construction to be completed.

The first-floor condos have been walled off from the entrance of the building so the other residents don't have to see the empty, echoing cavern of concrete and studs.

Despite filing the injunction on an emergency basis in the fall, much to their frustration, the residents have yet to see a court date or a change in their condos.

In a responsive filing, Vanderbilt III's HOA denied that the plaintiffs were entitled to the funding they requested, and responded to all allegations by saying further proof is needed before it can affirm or refute anything.

A search of Collier County code enforcement records turned up an application for a permit to reconstruct the first floor, issued Jan. 12, 2024. The permit expires in July.

The permit allows for reconstruction of the common area and hallways damaged by the hurricane, including replacing damaged studs, rusted-out plates and missing wall studs, removal of damaged studs, drywall, walls and the drop ceiling, as well as replacement of valves, tubs and drains.

Attorney Robert Bernstein, who represents the nine first-floor condo owners, said he hoped after waiting so long for repairs to their homes that the owners would soon get relief. He hoped a judge would rule in their favor, allowing them to see insurance proceeds placed in their hands and repairs begun on their homes.

"We're more than a year and a half out from the hurricane and my clients are no closer to moving back into their homes," he said.