Back in December 2016, we reported on a lawsuit brought by a Preston Tower resident. In that case, the HOA board was sued for shifting home repair costs to residents after a 2015 catastrophic flood resulting from an unmaintained water pump. According to court documents, the HOA chose to shift the financial burden away from their own building insurance at the suggestion of that insurance company. Soon after that story was published, that resident won (nothing to do with us, we reported late in the game).
On March 6, 2017, Preston Tower owners Sanjeva and Madhu Khemsara filed suit against Preston Tower for water damage from a different source. For over two years, their penthouse unit has been the victim of a persistent leak or leaks likely originating on the roof of the building. Like many high-rise roofs, a roof isn’t just a roof. Over the years, in addition to existing HVAC pipes and equipment, various communications antennas and other equipment have been installed. For every new thing on a roof, there’s the potential to create a tear in the roof’s seal.
The maintenance of the roof and HVAC equipment is (obviously) the responsibility of the HOA, not the resident who lives below. Prior to this suit, court documents state that the Khemsara’s made many requests for repair … for over two years. The plaintiffs claim the results of the repairs were always short-term fixes, sometimes lasting hours. While there is suspicion that HVAC pipes are to blame, no definitive cause has been established.
In addition to the Khemsaras’ home, the leaking has also caused damage to the exterior of the building directly above their unit. As you can see in the photo above, persistent water has gotten behind the stucco exterior causing it to slough off on to their patio.
I’m told by another Preston Tower resident that when the suit was filed, the HOA spent approximately $75,000 to have the roof resealed, in what that resident called a “Band-Aid” of the problem. The cost to rip and replace the roof system was estimated at $175,000 more.
The suit further claims that other penthouse owners experienced similar leaking but that their claims received different repair options and compensation that wasn’t offered to the Khemsaras. The Khemsaras’ attorneys say they don’t know if the “alternative fixes offered to other units worked.”
Preston Tower owners for 35 years, the Khemsaras’ claim discrimination may have played a part. Court filings note that on at least one occasion Mr. Khemsara was “refused entry to the building” and “harassed” on numerous occasions by queries about “whether he had the right to be in the building.”
Before you knee-jerk your thoughts on discrimination, let me say that it’s more than plausible. I’m 20 years younger than the majority of residents in my high-rise and have been asked if I belonged in the building and if I shouldn’t be taking the freight elevator (thinking I was a plumber or something). Similar exchanges have been reported by a Latina neighbor. It’s even been reported in my building that South Asian buyers received a little stonewalling from the “welcome” committee. So yeah.
As is the way with lawsuits, the HOA has denied all the Khemsaras’ claims.
One Preston Tower source noted that many of the same faces have been on the HOA board throughout the first flood and the prior two years of leaking in the Khemsaras’ home. Also, while the building manager has moved to a different building, ICI remains Preston Towers’ management company.
The Khemsaras’ attorneys report that they are in the early stages of discovery. The trial has been set for March 2018, so there’s a lot time for this drama to play out. For those wanting to read all the details, visit https://courtsportal.dallascounty.org/DALLASPROD and enter case DC-17-02646. Stay tuned to CandysDirt.com for future updates.
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. If you’re interested in hosting a Candysdirt.com Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016, my writing was recognized with Bronze and Silver awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.