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Whitehall condo owner gives up court fight
Woodcliff Condominiums landlord Tom Olander has agreed to turn over all his management rights of over 200 condos he owns, along with the condo association run by himself and family members since 1999, according to Whitehall City Attorney Michael Shannon.
This comes about following a court inunction issued Feb. 4 by Environmental Court Judge Harland Hale, the latest round in a long legal fight over the property cited for numerous code violations.
"This is a significant victory," declared Shannon.
There are 317 units actually in the complex. Some have other owners. Over half of Olander's units are empty, and a significant number have repeatedly been cited as unsafe and public nuisances by both the city and Franklin County Board of Health.
Olander has repeatedly failed to comply with orders.
Managing the receivership, beginning March 13, will be developer Bob Weiler, according to Shannon. Weiler will appoint a representative from Oakwood Management as his agent.
Assessments will be made of each condo. A property search will be conducted to determine ownership of all 317 units. The search will also net how many are currently in foreclosure. It's estimated there are 30 or more foreclosures among all owners.
During the first few months the receiver will have to appoint a new association board. Collectively, they will have to make informed decisions regarding rehabilitating or demolishing the buildings.
Shannon noted that the goal has always been to get compliance with city codes. He praised Service Director Ray Ogden and code enforcement officers for their diligence for so many years.
Admitting that his properties are a nuisance and are not up to code, Olander promised the court that he would not lease any more condos between now and when the receivership takes over management on March 13.
However, during an on-site meeting Feb. 5 with city officials, attorneys, Olander and Hale, people were moving into a couple of units.
Upon entering her rental on Feb. 5, a tenant discovered that there was no working electricity, no running water, and the commode was sitting in the bathtub.
Oakwood offered her alternative housing. Olander cooperated by returning her money and breaking the lease.
Failing to comply with multiple orders for violations over about a ten-year span, Olander's lease agreements now are "as-is" leases, according to Shannon.
Shannon said that the prospective tenants were shown a nicer unit when inquiring about a lease. But when they would return, they were told that the unit was no longer available Renters then would sign a lease for another condo, sight unseen, trusting it would be as nice as the model.
Oakwood is offering tenants, in emergency type situations, other suitable housing away from Woodcliff.
Shannon thinks that Olander probably will not be able to afford the cost of rehabilitation, which would give more leverage for demolition. If the city has to incur the expenses, they can impose liens.
Other serious, ongoing problems have included trash pick-up. Olander would not allow Rumpke to pick up trash, and made an unsuccessful attempt of doing it himself, but did not always properly remove it from the premises.
A one-time pick up by Rumpke was arranged by the city for Feb. 6. Future pickups will have to be negotiated.
All units have one water meter. Residents were paying Olander for what they were told was their portion. Some of those independently owned and attached to an Olander unit had their water turned of on occasion when Olander didn't pay his portion, resulting in several legal disputes.
In some units mold had eaten its way from one unit to another, but was ignored.
Residents sometimes had raw sewage backing up into their homes. Burned-out buildings have not been repaired or removed.
Another hurdle will be if a condo owned by Olander is ordered demolished, the trickle down effect to an attached, independently owned unit, could be devastating for that owner. Shannon pointed out that not just one side could be demolished.
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