By John Schaffner
The four women condominium owners, who have been fighting with their Arborgate homeowner’s association and management for more than two years to get repairs made to their units, have finally gotten some satisfaction in Atlanta Municipal Court, although the real victor in the court case was the city of Atlanta.
After months of granting one continuance after another to the Arborgate condominium owners association, Municipal Court Judge Gary E. Jackson on Oct. 29 ordered a trial for Nov. 16 in the case the city brought against the Arborgate association in Buckhead for non-compliance with city code relating to mandated repairs to the four condos which suffered structural damage more than two years ago.
The four condos, all in one building at Arborgate on Biscayne Drive in Buckhead and all owned by professional women, were damaged as the result of a ruptured water main. The extensive damages resulted in sunken and unsafe foundations at the condos, as well as cracked walls and ceilings.
The damages rendered two of the units totally uninhabitable and the other two virtually unlivable for the past two years, while the condo management stalled over making the repairs, claiming there was no clear indication it was their responsibility to make the repairs.
The city of Atlanta finally got involved and last spring filed suit against the Arborgate homeowner’s association and management to force the repairs to be done.
On Nov. 16, three of the four women and their attorney were back in court, but this time there was no continuance granted.
At first, the Arborgate attorney plead not guilty for his client the management and homeowner’s association. That plea was then changed to nolo contendere, meaning they did not dispute the charges but were not admitting guilt.
The city prosecutor objected to the nolo plea and refused to accept it.
Judge Jackson agreed with the prosecutor and said that the defendants had two choices: they could plead not guilty and go through the trial on the charges right then or they could plead guilty.
The Arborgate association finally plead guilty to the charges, which essentially was for not making corrections the city told them they had to make in a timely fashion.
As part of the proceeding, Judge Jackson took victim statements from the three women who were in the courtroom, all three of which broke down crying as they recounted the two years of emotional and financial hardships they have been through.
For two years, two of the women have not been able to live in their condos at all. One of them, Kimanne Allen was never able to move into her unit after purchasing it, had to purchase another home, was forced to pay two mortgage payments as well as homeowner association payments while not being able to occupy or rent the unit, and finally lost the unit in a recent foreclosure action.
Two of the women, Karen O’Brien and Andrea Nardello, who lived in their damaged units for many months, recently had to move out and rent apartments so that repairs could be made to the foundations of the units. They also had to purchase storage units to hold all of the furnishings from their condos during repairs.
According to John Weintraub, attorney for three of the women, O’Brien and Nardello initially were told they only needed to store the downstairs furnishings. Then they were told to remove all the furnishings from the units. But the units they had purchased were not big enough for all the furnishings.
Weintraub said that apparently some residents had similar problems at the Arborgate condominiums several years ago and had to move out of their units. In that case, the homeowner’s association paid their expenses.
There was precedent for the association to pay the expenses for the displaced women, but it has been refused.
Weintraub claims the homeowner’s association has breached its fiduciary responsibilities in this case. The association finally did the repairs to the foundations, but did them poorly and they had to be redone.
Weintraub said his clients are presently in arbitration with the association of a possible settlement.