Water damage nightmare lives on for Gardens condo residents

Nov 01, 2017
The San Matera condo complex in Palm Beach Gardens. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

When the San Matera luxury condo community settled a lawsuit with builder Kolter’s insurers over shoddy construction, the board president was optimistic relief would come for both soggy, frustrated residents and their leaky buildings.

That hasn’t happened yet for Rick and Anita Riggs, who have mold growing in the garage and a spongy laminate wood floor in the guest bedroom of the three-bedroom, three-bathroom condo they’ve rented for about five years. A wall in the bedroom is saturated with water. The condo’s manager has told them her hands are tied because no repairs will be done until the construction defects are fixed, Rick Riggs said.

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The leak in the garage started last fall and got much worse this spring. A heavy rain would fill a big plastic tub they placed on the floor to catch the water, he said.

“This is something we can’t live with much longer,” Rick Riggs said.

Last September, the San Matera The Gardens Condominium Association reached a $22.5 million settlement with insurers for Kolter Homes and dozens of subcontractors who built the 676-unit community just north of The Gardens Mall.

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Before the settlement, the condo owners board took money from reserves to make repairs in the buildings where conditions were really bad, treasurer Jon Markoulis said.

A few weeks ago, contractors started working on the buildings with the most complaints, Markoulis said. Those contractors will be paid from the settlement.

“When you have 30 buildings, you have to start somewhere,” Markoulis said. “It’s physically and financially impossible to do at the same time.”

San Matera is putting tarps over buildings with leaky roofs to prevent more water from coming in. But in a lot of buildings, it’s coming in from other places, he said.

“For those units, there’s nothing really we can do, short of doing the repair,” Markoulis said.

Someone patched and put a tarp on the Riggs’ roof where it leaked into the garage, but a mold inspector that their landlord hired said there are other areas where the water is getting in, Rick Riggs said.

There’s no point in doing mold remediation until the leaking stops at the source, he said.

Rick Riggs said he has heart disease, kidney failure and diabetes and was recently in the hospital for an infected diabetic ulcer. His wife is starting to experience health problems, he said.

The Riggs’ landlord flew to Palm Beach Gardens from Pennsylvania a few weeks ago to see the damage for himself. That’s when they finally got tarp. Riggs said they already complained to management three or four times prior to that.

The community manager did not return phone calls or an email requesting comment. Efforts to reach the board president were unsuccessful.

Fixing the construction defects in every building will take about about a year and a half.

The contractor will remove the outside wall cladding, windows and sliding glass doors and reinstall them with proper backing and waterproofing. New outside stucco will be installed, and any damaged interior walls will be replaced. Balconies that slope in the wrong direction will be ground down so the water flows away from sliding glass doors, a letter to residents from the board indicates.

Owners or tenants must move their furniture away from the walls and remove items attached to the walls being repaired. If the inside of the walls are rebuilt, the owners will get a primer coat of paint and be responsible for the finish coat.

Balcony tiles will be removed if the slope needs to be ground down, and it’s the owners’ responsibility to replace them, according to the letter.

Markoulis said the contractor will move as quickly as he can, and the units won’t be exposed to the elements overnight. Windows and sliding glass doors will be reinstalled at the end of each day.

Resident Stanley Kowalski said he’s disappointed the settlement didn’t include money for temporary housing and boarding for pets.

“As far as the inconvenience, this is something we didn’t sign up for,” Kowalski said.