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Condo Conflict

Raleigh condo owners ordered to vacate.

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With a name like "Garden Walk Condominiums," one might expect lush greenery and spring flowers. Instead, the 162-unit condo complex in Raleigh is home to boarded windows and broken shutters.

Only a few families still reside in the dilapidated complex. Tenants have been without water since January, due to its homeowner's association failing to pay the water bill over a three-month period, amounting to a debt of approximately $30,000.

Due to the lack of water, Memphis and Shelby County Code Enforcement condemned the complex and ordered its occupants to move out by April 11th. Among those required to leave is 20-year Garden Walk resident Avan Campbell, who is 72.

"It's a hurting thing man," said Campbell, who's losing his three-bedroom condo. "You've put your life savings into it, and then you've got to move out. I suffer from post-traumatic stress, so this has been a big toll on me."

The condos operate on a single water meter, so the homeowner's association is responsible for paying the water bill. The association said the water was turned off because many of the occupants haven't paid their monthly dues, which average between $70 and $100 depending on the square footage of their condo.

"There's no way we can pay the bill when no more than 40 people are paying fees for everybody," said Mary Jones, president of the Garden Walk homeowner's association. "We have owners over there who've [paid] their fees up to a year so they can keep the water on, and they got caught up in this."

Since January, many of the remaining occupants at Garden Walk have bought bottled water and caught rainwater in large containers to flush their toilets and bathe.

"It's been a real downfall, because I bought [my condo] from my sister and I own it," resident Cheryle Coren said. "I didn't think if you owned something that someone could put you out of it. Now, I have to pay rent [since I've moved], and [before] I didn't have to pay anything, because it was mine."

The bulk of Garden Walk's water usage isn't attributed to its occupants but the property's leaking water pipes, according to Jerry Collins, president of MLG&W. He said the $30,000 bill was accumulated over a three-month period due to the leaks.

"There are two options for Garden Walk. The first is to fix the water leaks and then work with us to figure out how this $30,000 back bill might be paid over time," Collins said. "The second option is that each individual unit could contract with MLG&W to have us tap our water main out in the street, run a line to the edge of the property, and install a meter that would be used for [each] individual condominium."

The latter of the two options is estimated to cost around $3,000, not including the fee to have a plumber run the water line from MLG&W's meter to each individual condo.

Since the property has been condemned, many occupants have moved and thieves have begun stealing air conditioning units, storm doors, and copper from the condos.

Collins said MLG&W is implementing an intervention program to identify this type of dilemma early on and avoid similar situations with condo complexes in the future.

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