Water Woes Mount as Preston Tower HOA Sued Again

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.

Flooring Damage Throughout the Home

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.

Ceiling Surrounding HVAC Blower Unit

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 sharewithjon@candysdirt.com.


5 Comment

  • All I can say, is good for the plaintiffs. Condo boards are notoriously willing to ignore their owners, and they are owners themselves. When I lived behind the pink wall, it was well known that various boards held meetings in almost secret: they either didn’t put out required notice of board meetings or they weren’t welcoming to owners who did show up.
    Board members attitude was we don’t need the owners interference and the less we do, the better off we are as a board. Lots of owners even told me this was okay by them, they trusted their board and didn’t want to think about such things as roof repairs.
    I agree with what you wrote long ago that one must match one’s own care about property maintenance with how other owners feel BEFORE one purchases into a complex.
    But that has been my experience with several “bad boards.” And many condo associations behind the pink wall still think they can hand pick new owners by various illegal ways of having the potential buyers “meet the board president” before the contract for sale can be signed or having to give written information about themselves to be approved. Such an arrogant attitude, meant to exclude anyone not of the chosen socio-economic class or race.
    We looked at a mid-rise property in the Knox Street area and were happily surprised to see notice of the upcoming board meeting posted in the elevator and it was held down in the common area with lots of seating. Owners we met in the elevator spoke highly of their board and property upkeep. Some properties are run properly by owners who care.
    (JON: inserted a few returns for readability)

  • Wow did not know there was so much drama with these condo boards. If you represent a buyer how do you find out if the board is shady?

    • Most HOAs have term limits. ANd, like every elected office, the opportunity for change (in either direction) comes with the annual vote. The problem most HOAs have is resident apathy…as long as there’s heat, hot water and no special assessment, they don’t care. This allows the problem elements to remain and rotate back onto the board as often as rules allow (and raise hell to serve their egos in the meantime).
      I do not know of any sure-fire way to avoid a problem HOA (a building can have a bad HOA for years only to do a 180). You really need to quiz the manager and look into their eyes to evaluate what their answers say and don’t say.

  • I would amend what Jon said to “some” boards have term limits. My experience in 3 HOAs that there were no term limits. To add to what Candy asked: if one’s buyer cares about such things as common element maintenance, then they should read the bylaws and declaration to see what “legal papers” the condo association has set forth as rules and such. They should ask when the board meets and try to see if board meetings are open to everyone and announced properly (which is the law but often boards try to skirt this). I’d even say google the Texas Uniform Condominium Act (TUCA) and read it to know what the law covers.

    Take a walk around the property beyond the individual unit for sale. Look up at the roof, the gutters, the windows and terraces/patio fences, the soffits. In the pink wall area, look at the back entrances to the buildings — if the back lobbies are dark, smelly, in original condition, and kind of yucky, be forewarned. In a high rise, check out the central garbage drop (smelly, trash all over, or well maintained). How nicely kept up do the carports or garage areas look. Landscaping and new paint is a cheap and easy way to make a property look nice — so don’t assume from a quick walk through. And check out the pool to make sure it has the proper, legal drains and safety fencing.

    Try to knock on neighbors’ doors and ask how the community functions, is everyone respectful of one another, what about repairs and maintenance, special assessments, etc. The caveat to talking to neighbors is they may not have any idea, may not care, or may tell you what they think you want to hear to make the association and property appear better than it is.

    But, again, Candy, many/most condo owners are there to not have to do any maintenance nor think about such things. So your buyer may not care!