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Investor challenges notification ruling on condos

The buyer says the county did not need to contact each timeshare unit owner before auctioning off Camelot Condominium in Pass-a-Grille.

By CRISTINA SILVA
Published March 26, 2007


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ST. PETE BEACH - Timeshare owners of a popular waterfront condominium said they are still fuming over what they consider the illegal closing of their property and irresponsible way the condo association has handled the sale.

Circuit Court Judge Mark Shames ruled this month that county officials should have contacted each timeshare unit owner before auctioning off the Camelot Condominium in Pass-a-Grille in November 2006.

Last week, Luke Investments, the South Florida firm that purchased the property, filed a motion for a rehearing.

Unlike most, Camelot timeshare owners were issued individual deeds when they purchased their weeks at the condo, Shames said. Usually, only timeshare associations are recorded on deeds.

But Luke Investments argued that it is unreasonable to demand the county contact each timeshare owner when only the condo association had the responsibility to collect tax payments and pay those taxes.

The court's decision "eliminates completely the ability of a local government to ever sell real property over which delinquent taxes are owed and a tax certificate has been issued," according to the motion for a rehearing.

A representative of Luke Investments could not be reached last week.

Timeshare owners said they want the matter resolved immediately so they can go back to using the condominium they loved.

"You can always buy another timeshare, but Camelot was different," said Nancy Walsh of St. Petersburg. "They made you feel like a treasured guest."

Camelot was auctioned off after the condo association failed to pay its taxes for three years, a total of about $180,000.

Before the sale, county officials hired a title company to search public records of Pinellas County and identify title holders for Camelot. The Camelot owners association was sent several notices that the taxes had not been paid and that the property would be sold. On Nov. 30, Luke Investments purchased the property for $2-million at auction.

Walsh said Luke Investments is challenging the court decision because its owners know that Camelot timeshare owners cannot afford to pay their attorney indefinitely.

"They have nothing to lose," she said. "They paid $2-million for a $15-million property, and they are just going to bleed us dry."

Timeshare owners are also upset that they still have not received any notice from the timeshare association stating that the building was sold.

"Surely we deserve some kind of notice to what has been going on," said Tony Colledge, a Canadian resident who bought a timeshare in 1983.

John Predmore, president of the Camelot association, said he has not been able to contact timeshare owners because Luke Investments won't let him in the building's office where all the records are, including contact information for all the owners.

When asked why he hadn't looked up the timeshare owners' deeds and contacted them that way, as the court suggested the county should have done, he said it would be too time consuming.

Predmore said he was never told by the association's office manager that the taxes had not been paid or that the property was going to be auctioned. In December, St. Pete Beach police decided not to press charges against any of the Camelot association board members or its employees.

"Our goal is get the property back as soon as possible," Predmore said. "It takes patience because the process of the law is really slow."

Cristina Silva can be reached at 727 893-8846 or csilva@sptimes.com.

[Last modified March 25, 2007, 23:35:35]


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