No air conditioning at Miami condo

(WSVN) - It’s been a brutally hot summer so far here in South Florida, and for the residents of one South Florida condo, relief isn’t coming fast enough. Their air conditioning has been out for over a month, and their condo association isn’t fixing it. Legally, can they be forced to live like that? It’s why they called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

It was a steamy, sticky 91 degrees outside when we got to Fourth Horizons condos.

And it was 91 degrees inside the condos as well…

Hiedee: “Yeah, I sweat a lot. I stay sweaty.”

Eighty-five-year-old Hiedee sits in her hot Miami condo, and she is not alone. The air conditioning is not working in all 35 of the units on the east side of the building.

Roni Peluso: “It’s uncomfortable, ungodly uncomfortable.”

It’s so bad inside, some residents stand outside on the hot July afternoon because it feels cooler outside than inside.

Maria Figueroa: “It’s scorching hot. It’s unbearable. It’s ridiculous.”

Thirty-five families suffering in the heat for over a month. Thirty-five families … and their animals.

Maria Figueroa: “I worry, like, I’m gonna wake up and find one of my cats dead.”

The reason for the problem? Since the 1960s, the condo’s air conditioning system was cooled with water from an underground well. Last August, the well collapsed. The condo association drilled a new well. In June, it collapsed, and this time the AC cannot be repaired again.

Maria Figueroa: “I take cold showers, and by the time I’m out, I’m already drenched in sweat.”

As you look out, you can see many windows are open in the hopes the hot breeze will cool their condos a little bit. It doesn’t. In this one, it’s 92 degrees.

The 10 residents who could afford it bought portable air conditioners, but they only lowered the temperature in Roni’s condo to 85 degrees.

Roni Peluso: “I get cranky, my husband gets cranky, neighbors are fighting. Everybody is hot and uncomfortable.”

The residents have complained to their management company and condo board. Roni says all but one board member lives in another section of the complex, where they have air conditioning.

Roni Peluso: “I don’t even think they that they’re trying to come up with an alternative or a solution.”

The board’s problem: Buying the system to cool 35 units is expensive. The association does not have the money, and the state and local government agencies the residents have contacted do not have a solution for them.

Maria Figueroa: “Everybody keeps passing the buck, so there is no solution.”

Well, Howard, no one wants to live like these South Floridians have for the past month, but they can’t solve their own problem, so legally, what can they do?

Howard Finkelstein: “Because the air conditioning system is a common element, the association must fix it. It’s the board’s legal responsibility to find a way to get the money to cool the building. And in the meantime, either provide window air conditioners or put the residents up in hotels to avoid even more serious health problems.”

We spoke to the attorney for the Fourth Horizon board.

Carlos Martin wrote, “The association is looking at a possible temporary portable chiller, or individual in-apartment AC units as a temporary measure. They are also attempting to fast-track approval of the installation of a new permanent chiller with the City of North Miami Beach to resolve the problem as soon as possible.”

The condo board now in charge is relatively new, and Martin pointed out, “The blame falls on the decisions of the association for years to patch the system, which was less expensive than a replacement, while at the same time not saving funds to pay for that solution in the long term.”

Howard Finkelstein: “Clearly this condo board is in a bad spot because of the prior board’s lack of action, but if they cannot cool the building quickly, the residents can sue and a judge can order the association to fix the problem within a certain number of days, as well as pay to put the residents up in hotels.”

Of course, any money the association spends on hotel rooms will come from the maintenance fees residents have paid and deplete the funds to fix the air conditioners permanently, but right now, these people are just fed up.

Roni Peluso: “We are paying our maintenance. We are doing our part. I don’t know what they’re doing, so right now, we are sitting here suffering. I feel bad for the animals, the elderly people.”

When can they get the air conditioning running? No one can be certain, but if it’s not quickly, the association needs to bring in some portable air conditioners or move the residents to hotels. This is why every association needs a savings account.

Sweating out a problem that’s left you steaming? Getting a frosty reception trying to solve it? Chill while we go to work and turn up the heat for you … in a good way. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
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Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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