'05 roof damage still a problem

A 73-unit townhome community in Sweetwater, covered in blue tarps from last year's hurricane season, awaits repairs on its damaged roofs. The work could begin next month.


Article Courtesy of Miami Herald


Published September 7, 2006

When Tropical Storm Ernesto spared Miami-Dade County residents recently, homeowners living in the Crystal Colony townhomes in Sweetwater breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The 73-unit community off Southwest First Street and 109th Avenue is still covered in blue tarps from damage suffered during last year's hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. Had Ernesto not weakened when it did, homeowners could have had disastrous results.

''Thank goodness the storm didn't turn out to be worse,'' said homeowner Martha Aleman, whose home has occasional leaks. "When it rains normally, I suffer. Just imagine what a hurricane with heavy downpours would've caused.''

Only now, after a yearlong tug-of-war battle with the association's insurance company, Citizens Property Insurance, are disgruntled homeowners at Crystal Colony finally beginning to see a light at the end of tunnel.

''We've been going back and forth with the insurance company for a year now,'' association President Raisa Diaz said. "Although there are units that didn't suffer damages, the tarps had to go everywhere because the roofs are all connected.''

Crystal Colony first received a visit from an insurance repair general contractor in June, 10 months after Katrina hit South Florida. The engineer from Disaster America estimated damages at the townhome community to be between $800,000 and $1 million, said Rachel Dugger, assistant to the association manager.

''There are several condominiums and townhome communities that are going through the exact same issues we are,'' Dugger said. "The only difference is the insurance company, though late, is going to pay us. Others who suffered worse damages aren't so lucky.''

Homeowners were told a 3 percent deductible of $215,000 was needed to begin repairs. Since the association didn't have an emergency reserve to tap into, homeowners scrambled for ideas on how to come up with the money.

At an association meeting last month, an assessment offered property owners two options to pay the deductible: a nine-month plan with no interest or a three-year plan through a bank loan with interest.

Each homeowner's share of the deductible is between $2,807 and $4,074. At the three-year rate, the average monthly payment would range from $78 to $113. Most homeowners opted for the three-year plan.

''I'm not working right now. I have no choice but to make the installments in three years,'' homeowner Mildred Ponce said.

If all goes as planned, once the insurance company's check is cleared and building materials are ordered, homeowners at Crystal Colony can expect to see roof repairs begin early next month.

An insurance agent for Citizens Property Insurance did not return Miami Herald phone calls seeking comment.

Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroņo said he is glad the homeowners' pleas for help seem to be getting answered.

''I'm glad to see that they appear to have the commitment from the insurance company and a contractor in place,'' Maroņo said. "These residents have been through enough. They deserve for this to be resolved already.''