Boynton Beach condo residents locked out of pool and clubhouse

All are being punished for foreclosures that don't pay, residents claim

Article and Video Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Erika Pesantes

Published February 4, 2011

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BOYNTON BEACH About 90 Quail Run condominium owners were locked out of their pool, clubhouse and other facilities this week, the latest step in a year-old squabble with the development's master association.

Those owners say their 96-unit condo community is being punished collectively because about six owners are in foreclosure and in default of their maintenance dues.

The master association says it has a new state law on its side.

On Tuesday, the Quail Run Master Association changed the locks on amenities including the pool, clubhouse and tennis and bocce courts, and refused to give condo owners new keys.

The condos, along with Quail Run's villa and single-family home developments, form a community of 293 residences, all under the umbrella of the master association.

Changing the locks infuriated condo owners who have been paying dues on time to their condo board, which, in turn, paid about $90 per unit to the master association.

Condo residents called the lock-out harsh and heavy-handed.

"It's unfair and I think it's illegal. This could go on for years and yet, all that time, they would be taking our money," said Haas Gallaway, who has lived in Quail Run for 21 years. He recently had knee-replacement surgery and could use the pool and fitness center in his rehabilitation, he said.

Until May, the condo association paid its full amount, fronting the share of the foreclosure units 

that weren't paying at all. The association then started paying only for those current in their fees, according to a lawsuit filed against it by the master association.

The condo association is about $17,000 delinquent in its payments, according to Dick Cappello, the Quail Run master association's legal liaison and villa association president. The total includes fees beyond community amenities.

Condo owner Kathryn Adgate can no longer play cards at the clubhouse or take a dip in the pool even though she's current in her fees. If she sneaks in as a guest, the 90-year-old risks having the police called on her for trespassing in her own neighborhood.

She's disappointed that social activities near home are indefinitely off-limits. What will she now do for recreation? "Nothing, truthfully," Adgate said.

 

The year-old conflict is in litigation, with a court hearing set March 25.

The master association held a hearing in November over the proposed lockout. The condo association finally was notified of the lockout Jan. 11.

A laminated flyer at the pool gate warns condo owners: "The police department will be called for anyone who creates a disturbance."


Boynton Beach police said no incidents at Quail Run have been reported.

Moreover, owners of Quail Run villas have been warned not to allow their condo friends in to use the pool, clubhouse or other amenities or face a $100 fine.

The master association acted under a Florida law effective in July, allowing association boards to take such action against condo owners who are more than 90 days in default.

"The law is fairly new. I expect that this is going to happen even more in the future," said Bill Raphan, supervisor of the state's Office of the Condominium Ombudsman in Fort Lauderdale. "This is probably just the beginning."

"[The law] gives you some teeth to try to convince someone that they should be paying," Cappello said. "It's not a good situation."

Condo owners should press their own board for action against owners of the foreclosed units instead of withholding full payment to the master association, he said.

Quail Run's villa and single-family home communities also have foreclosed properties, but those associations pay their dues in full, covering the foreclosed owners who do not pay, he said.

Mike Katz, a condo owner, said the condo association placed liens on the foreclosed units, and that otherwise the condo association's hands are tied. If any of the remaining 90 owners stop paying because they're locked out of facilities, they could face the same action.

Condo association attorney Christopher Meyer could not be reached for comment despite attempts by phone and e-mail.

However, a Nov. 15 letter from Christopher Sajdera, then the condo association attorney, states that the condo association acts only as a collecting agent and that "the association is not responsible for the individual owners' assessments owed to the Master Association."

Still, the master association has a viable argument, according to Gary Poliakoff, a specialist in community association law and adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University law school.

If the association didn't pay its full electric bill, for example, Florida Power & Light Co. could cut off service, he said.

"It's a harsh reality of today's environment in that owners contributing are going to have to pick up the bad debt of owners and banks not paying," said Poliakoff. "The alternative is the suppliers and vendors and others providing services would have to allow the association to pay less than they're contractually obligated to pay, and they're not going to do that.

"Those 96 [condo owners] should be very pleased it's not worse than that. Pick up the slack, enjoy the amenities and deal with the reality of today's economy," Poliakoff said.

Dick DeNicola, a Quail Run condo owner for 20 years, thinks it's all "just nuts."

"I can't imagine being forced to pay for something I can't use," DeNicola said. "I understand they're getting tough on the economy, but I can't for the life of me see why we can't use the facilities when we're paying up to date."

Haas Gallaway said: "It's like a bunch of little kids. 'You slap me and I slap you.' The net result is everybody loses. We almost feel like second-class citizens." 
  

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