INVESTIGATORS: Corporation forces homeowners to sell property

12:02 PM, Nov 21, 2013   |    comments
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Palm Harbor, Florida- Several homeowners say they are being forced to sell their Pinellas condos at a loss.

Stephanie Krasowski bought her condo home several years ago for around $160,000.

"You work so hard to live that American dream and then five guys from New York can come in and take it from you. This is really unfair."

The 10 News Investigators spoke with more than a dozen homeowners who have been fighting for their ownership rights.

Sally Wolfe was so surprised when she received notice that she was being forced to sell to a corporation, and that she had little say in the matter.

"How could this happen? How could a law not protect me as a homeowner?"

It's all happening at the Madison Oaks Condominiums in Palm Harbor.

Residents are being forced to sell thanks to a little-known state law. The law says that a condo complex can be converted to apartments if 80 percent of the owners are in favor of the deal.

But a lot of these owners planned on living at Madison Oaks for years and saw these condo homes as a great investment for their future. Now these owners are uncertain about their future.

Here is how it happened. In the past few years, more than 80 percent of the condos at Madison Oaks were bought up, not by new neighbors, but by a single company called "Madison Oaks, LLC".

The company wants the whole complex switched to apartments- forcing residents to sell their homes.

Pinellas Representative Carl Zimmerman- who contacted the 10 News Investigators- says he intends to do something about the law.

"I couldn't believe that people would be asked to leave their homes- people that were paying their mortgage, paying tier assessments and be forced to give up their home  at a fraction of what the home is worth. Surely the intent of the legislature is not to evict people."

How bad is it?

Some homeowners who paid close to $160,000, will be given less than $60,000 for their homes.

They'll have to move out, rent a new place- and still pay off their mortgages.

While this seems unbelievable that a company can force you to sell your home, state records obtained by the 10 News Investigators show that already, 207 condo complexes have been terminated for what appears to be this poorly written law.

With tears in her eyes, Karen Rehs said, "I will lose my whole life savings if this happens."

The law also says that if 10 percent of the condo owners object to terminating the condominiums then the plan can't go forward.

But some condo owners claim that Madison Oaks, LLC is ignoring that rule and going ahead anyway, even though this group that makes up more than 10 percent opposes the plan.

The 10 News Investigators wanted to ask the company about that, but they weren't interested in talking. So we went to the management company, McKinley Management, that runs the condo complex and tried speaking with June Bozenka.

"You can leave now I'm not doing interviews thank you very much," Bozenka told us.

After the door was closed in our faces, these homeowners began to realize that many doors are closing on their future. Now some are facing eviction, bankruptcy, and more.

"You work so hard to obtain something that is part of the American dream," said Krasowski, "and it can just get taken from you, at no fault of your own."

Now, the Madison Oaks Condominium homeowners are suing. If they can prove 10 percent of the owners oppose the sale, they might have a chance.

The 10 News Investigators will stay on top of this and let you know what happens.

Click here for more information on FL Statute 718.117 and who voted to change the law

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