Thursday, June 19, 2008


The real estate bust in South Florida takes its toll on high-rise condos.

Someone had kicked the door in on the foreclosure on the 33rd floor at The Club at Brickell Bay. Last week, Lori Rice, the building’s property manager, pushed it open. Inside, she found the tell-tale signs of a squatter: a mattress on the floor, a few toiletries in the bathroom.

”Clearly, a man was staying in there,” Rice said, adding that she called the police.

When police arrived on Monday they found the marble floors splashed with black paint. The man had fled, leaving destruction in his wake — along with a change of clothes in the washing machine.

Among the decidedly low-rent problems plaguing South Florida’s luxury condo market, squatters are the latest headache to arise from the glut of vacant foreclosures in some of Miami’s toniest condominiums.

At a recent meeting at the Brickell on the River North, a room full of property managers sat down to commiserate over a slew of other troubles: Impostor landlords leasing units they do not own, collecting deposits and rent from unsuspecting tenants, and a rash of vandalism and burglaries. Investor-owners, desperate to turn a dollar, are even renting to tourists by the day, undercutting local hotels at bargain rates.

And yet they’re still building more condo towers in Miami. It’s too late to stop the ones already under construction, but every day I drive by another vacate lot that announces yet another project “coming soon,” including the ten city blocks down the street from my old place in Coral Gables.

All I can say is, “whew,” and I’m glad I went through a licensed realtor to find my new place.