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James Island condo owners displaced by termite damage sue after being billed $60,000 each

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Rhonda Green shows where she had water damage related to termites and construction problems in her Pelican Pointe Villas condominium Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019 on James Island. Condo owners are being asked to come up with nearly $60,000 each for repairs. Andrew Whitaker/Staff

Residents of the Pelican Pointe Villas condominiums on Folly Road faced a huge inconvenience when they were ordered to evacuate their homes in 2018 due to termite damage.

But worse news was yet to come.

The termite bond for the condo complex — the insurance against damage from the wood-destroying insects — had been canceled more than two years earlier, the property owners soon learned.

Now, the condo owners are being asked to come up with nearly $60,000 each for repairs that include the termite damage.

A lawsuit has ensued, and one of the Charleston area's largest HOA management groups is a defendant.

The residents say it's a mess. 

“It’s a nightmare that you wish you could wake up from," said Rhonda Green, whose husband bought the condo where they live in 2007. "This is our primary home — our only home."

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Construction workers make extensive repairs at Pelican Pointe Villas condominiums on Folly Road Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019 on James Island. Temporary staircases are in place because termites destroyed the previous ones. Andrew Whitaker/Staff

Pelican Pointe Villas is among more than 40 Charleston-area condominium and apartment complexes that have been involved in litigation over construction defects. Problems at Pelican Pointe were the subject of a previous lawsuit that was settled for $3.7 million in 2017, before the extent of the termite damage was known.

"It was not enough," Green said. "We’ve had to move out, we’ve had damage to the interior, we had our windows taken out, we had to sleep with open holes in the walls — everything that could happen to a place, we lived through."

A year after the settlement in the summer of 2018, the city of Charleston ordered residents out of both 42-unit condo buildings because of termite damage to the stairs.

Dozens of people were displaced.

“We were in a hotel for about three weeks and we had to pay for that," Green said.

The Pelican Pointe Property Owners Association then did what any homeowner might: call the termite company that had been hired to protect and bond the property against the bugs. 

But, according to a lawsuit filed in April, when the association called Clark's Termite and Pest Control, the company informed the association the termite bond was canceled.

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Responding to the lawsuit, Clark's said that in 2015 the association and/or its property manager ignored requests to inspect the property, despite warnings that doing so could void the termite coverage. In January 2016, Clark's terminated the termite contract, according to the company's court filing response.

Community Management Group, which later merged with FirstService Residential, was responsible for oversight of pest and termite control, according to the property owners' association.

Folly Road building damage (copy) (copy)

Damage to a stairway at Pelican Pointe Villas on Folly Road as noted in a 2018 engineering report by Spartan Engineering Services. File/Provided

The association is suing the management company for, among other things, "not properly maintaining termite protection" for the condos.

Green said she sent Community Management Group emails in early 2015 about termite problems.

"As of right now, we are watching the (Formosan) Termites that are crawling up our windows," she and her husband, John, wrote in a May 2015 email to CMG. "There is a swarm crawling up the side of the building an also on the windows."

In response, a CMG representative told the Greens that Clark's Exterminating would be doing inspections. In the current lawsuit, Clark's claims its requests to inspect the property were ignored.

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"I just want my home back" Rhonda Green said as she reviewed documents related to construction problems, litigation and termites at Pelican Pointe Villas condominium on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019 on James Island. Andrew Whitaker/Staff

Community Management Group, now FirstService Residential, manages more than 100 communities in the greater Charleston area.

Community Management Group merged with the much larger company in 2018, shortly after an accountant for CMG was sent to prison for stealing more than $750,000 from the company's accounts.

Michael Sgobbo, president of the Pelican Pointe Property Owners Association, said the condo community has switched to a different property management company. He said the nearly $60,000 each that condo owners are being asked to pay includes the current termite damage, balance of costs related to the prior construction defects, and building upgrades.

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Construction workers rebuild the Pelican Pointe Villas condominiums on Folly Road on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019 on James Island. Andrew Whitaker/Staff

"We put a new roof on the place and upgraded the windows and sliding doors," Sgobbo said. “It seems to be a never-ending saga, but I think we are getting close."  

FirstService Residential has not filed a response to the Pelican Pointe lawsuit.

Ilene Jablonski, vice president of Marketing and Communications for FirstService Residential, said the matter has been turned over to the business' insurance carrier.

Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.

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