Owners face losing condos in Kissimmee
30 May 2017
Polk County resident Laurel Harris and a handful of Legacy Grand condo
owners — including a few full-time residents — have been put on notice
by their association that the Kissimmee property is becoming a hotel.
The main reason the condo association at Legacy Grand is able to
transition the condo property into a hotel, against the wishes of some
owners, is that an ownership group holds more than 80 percent of the
units and controls the association.
The “takeover,” as Harris and her attorney call it, is a new twist on
something that has been happening in Florida for years: Investors
bought apartments at the height of the real estate market and tried to
sell them as condos. But the real estate market crashed and left the
buildings largely empty. Throughout the state, investors who
accumulated large shares of units have been able to pressure the few
remaining owners into selling so they could control the entire property.
Legacy Grand filed plans with Osceola County in March to make the
switch from condo to hotel within 60 days — a timeframe that just
ended. Any hope for the owners to get paid rest with the courts as the
property comes under one ownership group that has filed for bankruptcy,
The bankruptcy will cover the entire property as it becomes a hotel. At
that time, owners of the project may sell the hotel and unit owners
would get a share of the sales proceeds, plans show.
“They have not offered anything for our unit,” said Harris, who bought
the unit with her mother for $15,000 in 2013. They have rented it out
and used it as an occasional vacation spot, but they recently emptied
out the furnishings — including a 60-inch television in anticipation of
being locked out.
The group that controls Legacy Grand, C.C. LLC, could not be reached
for comment. Its registered agent, Safety Harbor lawyer Kent Runnells,
would not clarify the legal path of the condo termination and
In 2015, the state set to protect owners who resided full-time in
condos by passing reforms that gave them more leverage in the sale
negotiations and additional money to relocate. The reforms did not help
some vacation-home owners, such as Harris at Legacy Grand. Even
residents who lack the homestead exemption status needed to establish
their condos as their homes.
“It shouldn’t make a difference whether you live there or not. If you
don’t live there, you’re generating income for the state of Florida and
then you’re not protected,” said Harris, an administrator at a
construction company. “It’s sending a message that they don’t want your
One reason condo terminations have become popular is that investors
gain the ability to buy out owners and manage the entire property,
instead of just chunks of it. Investors have said conversions can
better serve the complexes by giving them a sense of overall unity and
Orlando attorney Justin Clark said several of his clients who own units
there, including Harris, are being overpowered by an ownership group
simply because it has amassed the overwhelming majority of units and
rewrote condo rules to turn the property into a hotel.
“Just like the developers are being creative in their attempt to seize
the property of my clients, I think the individual owners must be
creative in their fight to save them,” he said.
Harris said she has been trying to get to the bottom of what — if
anything — she and her mother could expect to get for their unit.
The property management group emailed her this month stating that the financial information she requested was unavailable.
Judicial Arbiter Gregory D. Hoffman cited the Legacy Grand ownership
group in 2011 for co-mingling rental income and sales proceeds from the
Legacy. He found that condo converters, including Celebration resident
Ralph Kirkland and Lithia resident Ken Franklin Jr., had “engaged in
deceptive practices, made material and misleading representations and
omissions which were relied on by buyers” to convince them they were
making a safe investment that would be rewarded with rental income. The
arbiter awarded nine condo unit owners more than $3 million in damages,
but a bankruptcy has delayed those payments, records show.
Kirkland said he sold his share in 2010, lost his money during the
downturn and has been residing with his wife in one of the Legacy Grand
units for years.
“There are people who, like me, live there. There are families there
and renters,” he said. “And they are all going to get put out on the
Franklin could not be reached for comment.
Records indicate Harris and owners of several dozen other units had
until May 24 to remove their furnishings, appliances, decor and
renters. The notice the ownership group sent in March stated: “all
personal property belonging to any unit owner and not a part of the
condominium shall be removed from the unit(s).”
Harris said Thursday the door locks do not seem to have been changed
yet but the association is positioned to take over since it submitted
plans months ago.