Tampa condo group sues insurer for repairs

Feb 20, 2011

The following article was published by the Tampa Tribune on February 20, 2011:

Tampa Condo group sues insurer for repairs

By Rob Shaw

It’s not quite Keith Richards’ fingers or “Ugly Betty’s” smile, but a Hyde Park condominium association has set its legal sights on Lloyd’s of London.

The overseas insurance company more famous for insuring celebrity body parts is the focus of a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court.

Tampa attorney Pete Cardillo says Lloyd’s is liable for nearly $4 million in repairs to Hyde Park Place II, 1000 W. Horatio St.

The problem, Cardillo says, is that water damage and subsequent wood rot have caused problems with much of the framing of the 96-unit, three-story structure.

“It has impaired the structural integrity of the building,” he said. “It’s so bad that in some places they have had to shore it up with jacks to hold up that part of the building.”

Amy Wojciechowicz has owned a one-bedroom condominium there for more than two years. For nearly all of that time, her balcony has been off limits as it awaits repairs.

“I wouldn’t go out there,” she said. “It’s not safe. It’s too dangerous.”

So far, Wojciechowicz has paid $10,000 for two assessments so that repairs can begin. She had not planned to be stuck in the condominium this long, but now she has been advised not to try to sell or move.

“It’s very, very frustrating,” she said.

The conditions there are so bad that the units will have to be evacuated in the event of a hurricane because it won’t be safe to stay there, Cardillo said.

“It can’t withstand winds of 60 mph,” Wojciechowicz said. “It wouldn’t be safe.”

At issue in the lawsuit is an insurance policy that existed on the complex with Lloyd’s between February 2008 and February 2009, when the problems first were discovered, according to Cardillo.

After considerable time, Lloyd’s investigated the claim and eventually rejected it, he said.

“We knew all along they were going to deny the claim,” Cardillo said.

Lloyd’s maintains the damage issues date back several years before it had a policy on the condominiums.

The company says in court documents that there was termite, water and rot damage at Hyde Park Place II as far back as 2003.

Many balconies have braces or supports stretching from the floor to the ceiling to hold them up. Some wood railings also are rotting and, in some cases, breaking away. And paint is peeling in many locations.

So far, a quarter-million dollars has been spent on repairs.

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