But as early as 2008, there was evidence that the buildings had serious structural flaws. That year, a sewage pipe broke, causing an unbearable stench.
Alvarez, Blandón, Pineda and several other homeowners told El Nuevo Herald they submitted complaints to the condominium association.
Duarte-Viera acknowledged that there were complaints, but said the unit owners are responsible for their own repairs.
“They knew that what they bought was not new construction but apartments in an old building,” he said.
The residents took their complaints to several city and county departments. In response, officials have offered to write off their loans and subsidies to help them eliminate their debts and sell their units.
“But the solutions they offer are worthless because this place is uninhabitable,” García said. “What’s the use of forgiving our debt if we can’t even live in our own homes?”
Meanwhile, in 2011, Montara Land V LLC sold the remaining 14 condominiums to a new company, Havana Palms Invest, LLC.
Constantino Cicchelli, the owner of Havana Palms, said the residents should take greater responsibility for the condition of the buildings. He said that several of the owners have not made their maintenance payments for at least three years. The association is now under his management.
“They can’t think that they don’t have to pay to maintain the buildings just because they received some subsidies from the government,” Cicchelli said. “I wanted to convince them that together we can fix the problem.”
Several neighbors told El Nuevo Herald that they stopped paying the maintenance fees in 2010 once they learned that the insurance policy that protected the common areas such as the roofs and exterior walls, had not been renewed.
Several of them also stopped paying their mortgages.
“We’re not going to pay for something that’s falling down all around us and is now worthless,” said José Pérez. “This was fraud.”
“We trusted in the government when we bought this,” lamented Andrés Sergio Alvarez. “We thought that if the city was approving loans it was because the houses were worthwhile. Now we’re up the creek, and nobody can do anything for us.”