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East County Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2015 5 years ago

Lennar owners continue their fight in mold case

Two couples picketed Saturday at the entrance of River Strand to raise awareness about problems in their condos.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor


RIVER STRAND — Nearly a year ago, R.J. and Sharon Dominic came home to find mold in their home after their air-conditioning unit didn’t remove humidity properly. It covered their walls and cabinets and even ruined their shoes.

The couple and neighbors Louie and Anita Podolinsky filed a lawsuit against Conditioned Air Corp., of Naples, for installing an oversized air-conditioning unit — a 2-ton unit, compared with the 1-ton unit their condo required. The excessive tonnage of the unit caused it to short cycle, which, in turn, resulted in excessive humidity in the condo, they said. 

Since the incident, the couples both have installed whole-house dehumidifiers to prevent a similar incident. They and other unit owners are notifying new residents of Veranda condos to install the dehumidifier as soon as possible, because Conditioned Air continues to install the same sized unit in new condos.

On Saturday, the Dominics and the Podolinskys picketed in front of the entrance to their River Strand community.

“We’re hoping to get our money back (for remediation) and alert all the other owners; they are at risk, as well,” Louie Podolinsky said. “It could happen in their condo at any point in time. We put the dehumidifier in the day it was cleaned. Its runs all day, every day.”

The case is ongoing. 

Lennar, River Strand’s developer, asserted the owners did not maintain the unit properly, although the couples argue otherwise. The Dominics hired Bradenton-based Air Quality Management and an engineering firm, Sarasota-based ESC Energy and Sustainability Consultants, to inspect their condo; a report showed the unit was running and the humidifier worked properly.

The couples did not sue Lennar per an arbitration agreement in their homebuyer documents, but are pursuing compensation from Conditioned Air.

Mediation failed in November, but the Dominics and Podolinskys haven’t given up in their efforts to collect about $30,000 and $50,000, respectively, in mold-remediation costs — more with attorneys’ fees.

“We’re in a holding pattern,” R.J. Dominic said of the lawsuit’s status. “If Lennar would tell them to solve it, they would.”

Last week, R.J. Dominic filed a complaint against Conditioned Air with the Better Business Bureau. He also plans to file a complaint with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, as part of his quest for resolution.

“We did nothing wrong,” Sharon Dominic said. “Our whole dream has been crushed by this experience for us, the Podolinskys and everyone else who has to deal with it.”

Conditioned Air’s attorney Thamir Kaddouri, did not return inquiries seeking comment.

Recurring problem

In 2010, a similar problem with oversized air-conditioning units arose in the neighboring four-level Terrace condominium complexes.

Steve O’Brien, who served as the condo association’s president at that time, said an engineering report showed the air-conditioning units were too large and cooled them too quickly. Lennar forced the air-conditioning subcontractor, Bel Air, to replace 28 of 30 units. 

“They did resolve our problem, but it was like pulling teeth,” he said.

What is short cycling?

Short cycling of an air-conditioning unit is when the unit runs for shorter periods of time than engineered for optimum operation. The bursts of cold air can trick thermostats into shutting off the system before the house is cool and the humidity has been removed effectively. 

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