Hopefully in the first 3 parts I have provided enough general advice to avoid reaching this part. Remember, arrange to have a lawyer on hand and reserve enough for any retainer fees ahead of time if you are going to purchase a Condo. What I am going to detail below is indeed a “worst case” scenario and are factual events but as mentioned in the prior installment if it happened to one person then it must be happening to others as well.
VOICE FROM THE GRAVE: Back in 1995 I was in a car accident that had set me back 4-5 years. Getting this property was one of my final steps to catch up. Now, it was June 2009 and I survived the signing at the closing and moved into my Unit. I was told ahead of time by both the Seller Agent and my own Buyer Agent that the 1st floor was vacant but someone was in agreement of that Unit and would be moving in shortly after my arrival. The Condo group is 5 Units total. 4 Residential and 1 large Garage which was being rented out against the Condo Document/Rules. The first month passes and I had not seen any of the other owners at all. Since the monthly condo fee was due I went to the other Units and rang the doorbells. No one answered the door. After another week I finally spotted one of the owners on their outside deck. I tracked them down and the owner of Unit 34A said there was no one to pay the fee too. He admitted verbally that he had not paid the monthly fee for over a year. (But I was provided information that the Association was up to date). I asked who was going to take on fixing the Association and the owner of 34A refused and went into his Unit. It was then when I became bitten, I was on my path to becoming a Condo Zombie……. I ended up taking on the task of fixing the Association under the terms that once fixed a Property Management company would take over. (This never happened of course).
UNIT 34A: This Unit was purchased by the owner at that time from their parents at $175,000. They had refinanced the mortgage for over $300,000 and after a lot of research and phone calls it was revealed that they were not paying the mortgage as well as any Condo fees. Also 1.5 other families were living in the Unit against the Condo Docs/Rules. Eventually the bank caught up to them, they vacated the Unit and it was then empty for the duration of my stay on the property.
UNIT 30A: This is the Unit below the one I purchased. Come August 2009 no one moved in. The Seller and Buyer Agent were no longer returning my emails or messages. The Seller Attorney also refused to assist. On one very hot and humid August day I smelled something very foul and pungent odor rising up into my Unit from the one below. I called the police who escorted me into the Unit to investigate. The Unit was littered with raw garbage, crack spoons and syringes, underwear with stains, used condoms, a gallon plastic bottle filled with human urine, and black mold and infested the lower room – half way up the walls. The Salem Police Officer suggested I contact the Board of Health and get the City of Salem involved. Eventually I tracked down the bank that owned the mortgage for this Unit. They thought the Unit was occupied. After a lot of research and more phone calls it turns out the prior owner (who was listed under numerous names and addresses/states) was running a business out of the Unit and eventually abandoned it. It is not clear if the drug use occurred during their residence or by squatters after they left. Contact with the owner was never made. The bank eventually sent a hazmat team over to remove the garbage and “contain” the black mold. Some photos of that Unit on the day the police and I investigated will be posted at the bottom of this article. But what did the City of Salem do you ask? …… The Condo Zombie virus gets stronger…..
The City of Salem/Board of Health/Housing Dept.: I did what I was supposed to do. I filed a claim with the Board of Health and tried calling the Housing Dept. Now as far as any Units being rented against the Condo Docs, the City of Salem REQUIRES Condo Owners to publicly declare their Units as rentals and to get a certificate from the Board of Health. Units 34B, 30A, and the Garages failed to comply with this local city law. My final replies from the City of Salem, the Board of Health and the Housing Dept. was essentially “We’ve dealt with your property in the past – good luck (dial tone).” The City of Salem did not want to get involved even though I was making great efforts to fix the Association and have all of the owners comply with the legal Condo Docs. The City of Salem FAILED to do their part to get the issue resolved. They REFUSED to get involved.
So off the bat there are 2 or more Units out of 5 NOT paying monthly condo fees and not following the rules of the Condo Docs. Where was the money going to come from to pay for the Master Insurance? The property upkeep? The snow removal in the Winter? The Condo Apocalypse was in full force. Where was Rick Grimes when you needed him?
Enter the Investor: Much like the Governor character in the Walking Dead comics, someone arrived and promised to make everything good again. But this was all a sham as well. Unit 30A was eventually sold on auction to Property Acquisitions Group. Immediately they stated they would use “their guys” to fix the Association. They asked the other owners to trust them, everything would be taken care of. While they did put the Unit on the market for sale it is known they also refused valid offers from people wanting to purchase it. Eventually Unit 30A became a college dorm with up to 8-10 students illegally residing in the Unit even in the area where black mold was growing. 3 times I had to call the police due to very loud drinking parties. The Investor also made alterations to the building structure itself without telling anyone and moved electrical panels without consent of me, the only valid owner living on the property. He even took over the Common Areas in building 30. I then tried to get a Property Management company to step in and once they started investigating that’s when the phone calls started. The banging on my door calling me an “asshole” and “mother%@#$ piece of shit.” That’s when cars suddenly appeared right in front of my garage door preventing me from leaving the garage/Unit. All other owners, even though they were not following the Condo Docs, paying the Condo Fees or living in the Units at all revolted against having a legitimate Property Management company step in and fix everything by law and accordance. I myself tried to sell my Unit numerous times to get out. Even tried a double Rent-To-Own out of desperation to have that backfire in my face.
I ended up getting a letter from a Real Estate agent in Salem that stated they had expertise in these types of situations. Strange. But I contacted them anyways. Spoke to their lawyer (the 5th one I talked to in 3 years) and all they could offer was if I paid $10,000 up front as a retainer they would take on the case but it would be years before anything could be resolved if at all. Naturally at this point I just about lost everything I had. I was given an other alternative. I could put my Unit on something called a Short Sale which would take about 6 months to complete and then I would be free of the Unit. So toward the end of 2011, I put my Condo on Short Sale. Moved to Phoenix Arizona to take a step back and regroup. The bank involved (Bank of anti-America) kept delaying and restarting the Short Sale process. They kept pushing for foreclosure. They stated they never got information that was sent 5-8 times to their office. The Claim owner was changed 3 times by Bank of anti-America. Finally after just about 2 years the Short Sale was completed and closed. Unit 30B was off my name, but the Condo Zombie virus had set in. I am the Undead of Real Estate. Even though I may have enough for a down payment and my credit score has rebounded I cannot purchase anything until December 2014. I am undead to the financial and real estate worlds. I should also note here that in early 2013 I returned to the North Shore of MA on hopes I would be able to qualify for a different type of mortgage program. But this was not the case. Anyone with a Short Sale on their record is required to wait 2 years or more before they can buy again. And what about the Condo Group on Loring Avenue in Salem MA? It’s my understanding that conflicts are still occurring between the Unit owners, the property is still in need of a lot of work. (I drive by on a regular basis to flip it the bird). I strongly urge anyone in the area to stay away from 30-34 Loring Avenue if you think you want to buy a Condo there OR rent one of the Units. It’s just not safe.