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News stories about Florida condos

Fort Lauderdale Beach condo residents hit with $60,000 assessment
Miami Beach Condominium Reportedly Being Used As A Hotel
Is this the condo from hell?
Residents upset over piles of trash at Orlando condo complex

Fort Lauderdale Beach condo residents hit with $60,000 assessment

Local 10 TV News
21 April 2015
Residents at the Embassy Tower 2 building on Fort Lauderdale Beach were outraged after finding out that they had to quickly come up with thousands of dollars.

Miami Beach Condominium Reportedly Being Used As A Hotel
WFOR-TV, Miami
Michele Gillen
09 May 2015

How did they find their Octagon vacation rental?

“Internet,” all three declared to Gillen.

What wasn’t advertised on the internet rental ads – describing the apartment and property – were the two red warning flyers that are posted to the front door of Octagon Towers.

One was issued by the fire chief of Miami Beach who deemed that the operation of the building as a hotel as an “imminent life safety danger.”
The other posting cautions that power to the entire building will be shut off in 30 days if owners don’t cease and desist from leasing apartments to short term renters.

In the opinion of the fire chief, short-term rentals are those for less than 30 days.

Faced with the publicly posted warning that the building is considered an unsafe structure because of alleged fire code violations, long term residents and owners are upset and worried.

One woman, who identified herself as France, told Gillen, “I am so angry about these things. I can’t stand it anymore. I choose this as my home. This is my home. ”

It was back in December 2014 that the city wrote up the Octagon as an unsafe structure because so many apartments were allegedly being rented out for short term vacation rentals. According to the fire department, that’s anything under 30 days.

According to a review of city documents, because these apartments do not have individual fire sprinklers, renting these apartments as short term rentals is illegal – a violation that could cost everyone.

Another concerned owner named Pete said, “Stuff like that means people can get thrown out of their homes.”

Some owners have likened the lobby of the Octagon over the past tourist season to that of a motel – an avalanche of luggage, tourists and strangers with total access.

“We want peace in our house,” France said. “We want a safe place to live. But now we don’t know who our neighbor is. Each week I have a different neighbor. I can’t stand this anymore.”

The public warnings went up at the end of the March and mid-April.

But a visit to the web shows reviews from vacationers over the past months and years of short term rentals – one after another, in apartment after another.
Yet, now the stakes seem to be higher than ever with the possibility of the entire building being shut down if individual owners continue to rent for less than 30 days.

CBS4 News wanted to talk to the man who owns the apartment they rented, Sigmond Esposito. Known online as Siggy, he is an Octagon condo board director.

But none of the calls placed to Esposito were returned. Neither were calls made to other Octagon condo owners who had rented out their apartments for rentals for less than 30 days. Attempted calls to the condominium management office were met with hang ups or not returned. Calls to the president of the condominium board  were also not returned.

The CBS4 News investigation found that  those short term rentals – under 30 days – are anything but new at Octagon Towers.

Documents obtained by CBS4 showed that the Octagon was warned by the fire department 4 years ago about short term rentals, following complaints.
In a 2011 report the building was warned:
“If these types of rentals are to continue, a change in occupancy must be requested which will require 100 percent sprinkler protection.”

The building never installed sprinklers. A vote passed to opt out of a sprinkler installation that could be a costly retrofit.

Yet following that vote, the internet is full of reviews by short term vacationers who stayed in apartment after apartment at Octagon Towers, praising week long stays.


Is this the condo from hell?
Aquarius residents complain of endless construction, millions of dollars wasted
Author: Bob Norman, Reporter

"It was my dream to live on the beach in beautiful Florida," said Yelena Kazakova, who owns a unit in the Aquarius condo there. "The sun and the ocean, just every day you wake up and you see this beauty."

But Kazakova, a physician’s assistant, reality crashed in, quite literally. Last summer, for instance, the ceiling over the once pristine lobby caved in during a flood and it remains a mess. The gym has suffered a similar fate, with gutted ceilings and walls. The Aquarius board of directors -- which has been a veritable game of musical chairs during recent years -- said the entire foundation of the building is crumbling.

There has been nothing but chaos," said  Kazakova’s neighbor, Paul Mangiamele, a part-time resident who happens to own the Bennigan’s restaurant chain. "Chaos in the sense of construction projects that never seem to finish. We can't use the pool. We can't use the lobby. We can't use the west pool. We can't use the fitness center."

In all, about $6 million has been spent on the building during the past five years or so.  About $4 million of that came from Donald Trump, who agreed to pay that amount to Aquarius when he built the Trump Hollywood high-rise next door.

"We were assured because of the Trump property next to us and the amount of money paid to the Aquarius units that assessments would never occur for the lifetime of our stay here," said Mangiamele. "It gets to be suspicious when it's now assessment after assessment."

He is talking about a recent $1.7 million assessment that has apparently been spent and a recently passed new assessment of $4 million, or about $15,000 average per unit, bringing the grand total including the Trump money to about $10 million. Further irking unit owners, the $4 million hasn't been contracted yet, making some unit owners to feel as if it's just another blank check for a board that has wildly mismanaged the two Aquarius buildings for years.

"Where's the detail? When are the projects going to be completed?" asked Mangiamele. "Just common sense questions. Just show us where the money is going. We have no problem helping to make this the jewel that it should be, but just give us answers."

When asked about the residents' concerns and all that money spent, Aquarius property manager Andrew Surdovel quickly pinpointed what he said was the real problem.

"Mismanagement of money, that's all I can say," said Surdovel.

He can say that since he only took over the management of the condo in November. He said a recent audit uncovered bookkeeping problems that are now under further investigation.

"There has been some irregularities, so (the auditor) is looking at it right now," he said.

Examples of the mismanagement aren't hard to find. A renovation of one of the condo’s pool deck’s was supposed to cost $1.5 million, but the actual cost has already ballooned to to $2.1 million, eating up the previous assessment and with no end in sight of the rising costs.

"They really didn't do their estimates correctly," said Surdovel. "They just shot from the hip."

And the lobby? It flooded after the board failed to waterproof the construction job above it, said current board Vice President Joel Cohen.

Then there's a project that began when the board decided to move a small bathroom on the pool deck. The cost has gone out of control.

"It's a $125,000 toilet," said Cohen.

Yet Cohen and the board are forging ahead with more construction, with the board voting to hit the 269 unit owners there with the new $4 million assessment. Part of that job is concrete restoration which requires that that pavers at the building's entrance be destroyed. Residents are upset this, too, is setting up to be a disaster as the board has no contracts in place for the $4 million -- only a $2 million "change order" from the construction company that is working on the west deck.

A group of residents formed a human chain in April to try to stop that work and were successful when it was learned there was no current permit to do the work. But the respite was short-lived and the destruction in May, leaving residents to hope it's not another costly debacle that will end with more demands on their own checkbooks.

"My beautiful dream of living on the ocean is getting demolished," said Kazakova.


Residents upset over piles of trash at Orlando condo complex
02 May 2016

ORLANDO, Fla. —Trashy, smelly, a nuisance: All words that could be used to describe what people in an Orange County condo complex think about a mess in their neighborhood.

Garbage had apparently been piling up for weeks at Avalon Condominiums and residents want something done about it.

Trash is overflowing the dumpster and stacked up along the neighborhood streets. Residents are not happy about it. A sign nearby tells people not to leave trash on the steps, but the steps leading up to the trash compactor are no longer visible because they are covered in garbage.

"We pay $400 a month in association fees and it's supposed to be taken care of, all of this stuff," said resident Pablo Roman.

Roman said he's complained to the condo association.

"They said they're taking care of it. That they're on top of it. But it's been like that for months," he said.

"It lowers the standards of the place and the value," said resident David Hernandez. "I pay money to get it cleaned up and they don't get it fixed."

WESH 2 News called and emailed the condo management team and the condo association. So far, no replies.

WESH 2 News asked to speak to management to see if there was a solution, but was told that no one was available.

Meanwhile, the trash continues to pile up. Residents fear what it may be attracting.

"Raccoons, you know. I'm sure it brings roaches and all of that stuff," Roman said. "I just want to see it cleaned up, that's all."

The Florida Department of Health is investigating.

I strongly suspect that the garbage collection company stopped collecting the trash because they have not been paid. I also suspect that there are many unpaid bills at that condo.—editor CondoMadness

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