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Tampa Bay Condo Owners Facing Big Assessment Fees

People who own condominiums in Tampa Bay’s Signature Place have been hit with an $8.7 million special assessment fee. As the tallest but also newest condo tower in the city, the assessment is meant to repair serious and urgent defects in construction that puts both residents and pedestrians in danger.

Although the condominium tower is just six years old, repairs were initially estimated around $700 but as experts conducted more in-depth investigation, they discovered that rebar used to strengthen exterior walls was installed improperly or missing altogether.

In addition, repairs need to be made to exterior stucco, which in high wind conditions could fly off the tower, causing major damage and injury. For months, work on Signature Place has been underway but now that additional and more severe problems have been uncovered, the new date for completion is not until late next year.

As expressed by Birte Patenaude, one of the many condo owners, earplugs have to be worn all the time due to the deafening noise. As part of the assessment schedule, owners to include Patenaude will need to pay more than $27,000 in special assessments for a single bedroom condo. Even when spread out over a 10-year period, it will cost Patenaude an additional $230 a month, added onto the $768 she already pays in association fees.

Patenaude reminded people that just because Signature Place is new and beautiful, not everyone living there is a millionaire. As a retired teacher who lives on a pension and Social Security equal to $35,000 a year, the assessment fee is making things very difficult.

Among the more expensive units at Signature Place are moderately prized units. For instance, Patenaude paid $277,000 for her one-bedroom a year after the tower opened. Overall, the assessment fees will range from $9,910 for smaller condos up to $132,244 for the penthouse that boasts three bedrooms. However, the majority of units will be assessed around $50,000.

In light of the seriousness of the repairs, a large number of condo owners plan to sue Joel Cantor, developer with Lend Lease Corporation, as well as others. In fact, according to G. Derrick Roberts, who purchased the penthouse last February for a cool $1.8 million, he knew prior to buying that a lawsuit was imminent. Of course, initially no one living at Signature Place had a clue just how disastrous the situation would become.

Many owners have become quite vocal in their concerns, believing that assessment fees should have been postponed until the lawsuit is resolved. However, votes from the Board went against that and as such, condo owners have no choice but to pay the fees and wait.

As part of the lawsuit, which was filed last October, over 100 design and construction defects were cited in the 36-story condo tower. The two most critical at this time are the rebar and cracked stucco that allows water to leak inside. Unfortunately, an additional problem was recently discovered with underlying concrete block walls and the connection between the walls to beams and floors.

As late as last month, a report was released in which inspectors stated that as certain areas of stucco were removed, more defects with construction were revealed. Not only do these defects put residents and pedestrians at risk for safety but also health-related problems.

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