Pinellas condo owners fight investors over takeover

Pinellas condo owners fight investors over takeover

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This is Eric Granowsky, one of the investors in a Miami investment group that wants to turn the Madison Oaks condominiums into an apartment complex. This is Eric Granowsky, one of the investors in a Miami investment group that wants to turn the Madison Oaks condominiums into an apartment complex.
Madison Oaks, Palm Harbor Madison Oaks, Palm Harbor
PINELLAS COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Imagine an investor forcing you to sell your home for a price so low that you're stuck paying a mortgage, even though you have no desire to sell at all?

That's happening at the Madison Oaks Condominiums in Palm Harbor. An investment group from Miami bought more than 80 percent of the units and is trying to force the rest of the owners, many of whom bought to live there, to sell their condos.

The investors want to turn the whole complex into an apartment complex.

8-on-you-side first reported the situation at Madison Oaks in August 2013. Residents continued to fight and Carl Zimmerman, a state representative from Palm Harbor has written a bill he hopes will help condo owners.

Related Story here: Pinellas condo owners forced to sell at a loss

Zimmerman says investors are using a loophole in Florida law to force out condo owners and pay them only market rate for their units. His bill would require investors to pay the owners 110 percent of the price they originally paid for the condo.

"They are basically taking people's homes away against their will and telling them what they are going to give them," Zimmerman said.

Stephanie Krasowski, one of the condo owners, filed a lawsuit to halt the condo termination.

"Our voice should be louder than theirs," she said. "We outnumber them."

Madison Oaks was converted from an apartment complex to a condominium in 2007. Last year, the investors bought units in bulk, and they say the complex doesn't work as a condo. The best business decision for them, they say, is to go back to apartments.

"I spent $162,900 on my condo. I put down a 20 percent down payment, and they're now offering me less than $50,000 for my place," Krasowski said.

Think this couldn't happen at your condo?  Think again.

8-on-your-side obtained state records that show thousands of condo owners across the state are in the same boat. A loophole in state law allows the takeover. The law calls for 80 percent of the owners to agree. But if investors buy up 80 percent of the units, they have the power to force everyone else to sell to them.

Zimmerman said it was not the intention of lawmakers to have a bulk owner vote to take over a complex.

But Eric Granowsky, one of the investors at Madison Oaks, says his group isn't doing anything wrong. He says they're not relying on state law to back up their position. He said the condo declarations at Madison Oaks provide for this type of termination and that his group is willing to pay market rate fro the condos.

"We have sympathy for the owners that they lost value," he said.

Krasowski's lawsuit is scheduled to be heard in court in June.

Copyright 2014 WFLA.  All Rights Reserved.

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