(WSVN) - Residents of a South Florida condo building have a pool problem, and it could take 50 years — yes, 50 years — to fix. Karen Hensel explains in tonight’s 7 Investigates.
The pool at the Maison Grande Condominium on Miami Beach is currently closed for repairs.
It may even have to be replaced, but once the pool is fixed and filled, the money being sunk into it will not stop because the pool problems here go much deeper.
Alan DelForn, unit owner: “We’re looking at three generations that are paying for this pool.”
Three generations, or 99 years to be exact.
Part of the monthly maintenance fees for the 502 condo owners here goes to lease their own pool because it’s not actually theirs to begin with and hasn’t been since the building opened in 1971.
Kim Alessi has lived here since 2011.
Kim Alessi, unit owner: “What he did was he sectioned off and kept a portion of the property where the pool was going to be built.”
In what’s called a recreational lease, the building’s developer retained ownership of the pool and a portion of the deck.
The condo owners are charged to use it, even when they can’t swim in it.
Kim Alessi: “The pool has been closed since June of 2019, and we still had to pay $75,000 a month for a closed pool that no one can use.”
This July, the payment was $77,000, meaning the association is on track to spend more than $920,000 just this year for the pool! And if it ends up needing to be replaced, unit owners will be responsible for the cost but still won’t own it.
Kim Alessi: “It says that we’re responsible for all maintenance, for all taxes. We have to insure it.”
At this point, you may be wondering how this is even legal? And it’s not anymore, but it was when the lease was signed, and that has condo owners here locked into a losing legal battle. They have lost in both state and federal courts.
Alexander Turner, real estate attorney: “The Florida Supreme Court said a contract is a contract, and even though it may be very unfair, you know, everybody knew what they were getting into when they got into it, or at least that’s the presumption.”
Real estate attorney Alexander Turner says these kinds of leases were common back in the early ’70s.
Alexander Turner: “The legislature actually banned these things. They said no more leases after 1975 because some of these leases were literally 99 years.”
Brenda Torres, condo unit owner: “I know there’s been several generations of owners who have tried to address this matter.”
Brenda Torres has owned a unit at Maison Grande for four years and is a former board member.
She says the pool payments have a ripple effect.
Brenda Torres: “We have to forgo certain improvements in the building, certain crucial improvements because first we have this obligation.”
The unit owners are hoping by speaking out, state lawmakers will step in to help.
Kim Alessi: “The condo regulation laws need to be changed to reflect that this is not a proper law and void this lease out. We’ve paid for 49 years.”
Alan DelForn: “And it still has another 50-plus years to go, which means that they’re going to be collecting another roughly $75 million, and anyone in their right mind would go ‘What are you, crazy? One hundred million dollars for a pool?'”
We reached out to the developer and family trust that collects the lease payments but have not heard back.
Meanwhile, unit owners see no end in sight.
Brenda Torres: “We have grandmothers, grandfathers. We have single mothers, young families, and from every angle, I mean, it just doesn’t seem fair.”
Fair or not, this swimming pool saga could continue until the lease ends in the year 2070.
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