Fire Hits Fla. Condos: No Insurance


The homeowners' association at an apartment building in Lauderhill that was left nearly gutted by a fire Friday had canceled its insurance to save costs, according to Lauderhill Mayor Richard Kaplan.

The fire broke out at the Park South Apartments in the 1500 block of Northwest 43rd Avenue at about 1:45 p.m. Friday. It took firefighters from 11 departments about four hours to get the blaze under control.

Afterward, the building was condemned, meaning about 70 residents had to find somewhere else to stay.

Investigators have sent forensic evidence and are waiting for word from the chief investigators on the cause of the blaze. Officials would only say that the fire, which destroyed the building's top floor and roof, began in Apartment 304.

The man who was in the apartment at the time returned to the gutted building with fire investigators Monday. He was still wearing hospital scrubs after being treated for injuries from the fire.

The question no one can seem to answer is who will pay for repairs.

"If it came from an apartment, we don't know until the investigators come out here and they find the cause of origin with this," said insurance adjuster Denise Valderrama.

The mayor of Lauderhill said Monday that the building's homeowners' association had canceled its insurance.

"The tenants have no hazard insurance, even though they were paying their monthly maintenance fees," said Ann Marie Emmanuel, whose mother, Rita Clark, lives at the building.

Clark bought her home in the building 10 years ago. She has been paying condo fees every month since then, and she was surprised to find out that they were not going to building insurance. Linda Meyers was on the homeowners' board until recently and said she had no idea the building was not insured.

"I haven't seen the statements or banks or the reserve, and for the last three years, and they didn't provide a budget," Meyers said.

If the residents want to replace the building's roof, they will have to pay for it themselves. They are not covered under any policies, and since a natural disaster did not cause the damage, they cannot ask for federal help.

"The report to the city was that they went ahead and they canceled voluntarily their insurance last September as a cost-cutting move," Kaplan said.

The building is already condemned, unlivable and dangerous to anyone who might venture inside. Now, the residents might not be able to move back in.

"I don't know what's going to happen, who's responsible to fix the building, how the building is going to be fixed, how we're going to get the money back," said resident Yves Georges.

Right now, the search for answers is only superseded by the residents' search for another place to live. Dozens of families who live in the building have been homeless since Friday. Some stayed at an American Red Cross shelter, while others stayed with friends or family.

Residents waited outside the building on Monday for someone to escort them inside the condemned structure to salvage what belongings they could.

Copyright 2010 by Post-Newsweek Stations. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed