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Condo owners looking to prevent condo takeover in Fountain Hills

Posted at 6:39 PM, Mar 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-08 20:53:14-05

FOUNTAIN HILLS, AZ — Condominium owners in Fountain Hills believe their complex might be the next target of investors who have a history of using a state law that could force them to sell.

Amy Wautier purchased her unit at Four Peaks Condominiums in 2015 as a second home. She calls it her family's dream vacation spot.

"We love to hike. And the beauty of the Four Peaks Condominium complex is within weeks we were able to make lifelong friends," Wautier told ABC15.

It's property she and her husband planned to keep and pass down to her children, so she keep tabs on who buys and who sells.

"Knowing that other friends of ours wanted to come in and buy in that complex or in surrounding complexes, I wanted to be able to keep track of what condominiums were selling for," she said.

Four Peaks has almost always been a mix of renters and owners, with the largest owner of units being the Canadian investment company that developed them.

It also controls the homeowners association board, something that Wautier was hoping to change.

"We felt like as homeowners, we weren't being treated as homeowners but more like tenants," she said.

So during the summer of 2021, Wautier and a group of owners pushed the developer-run board to turn over the HOA to all the unit owners.

Eventually she says they got a letter from the board's attorney with five names, including hers. But there were others she did not recognize.

"I learned these two individuals were actually managing principals for a company named Rockwell property company in Chicago, Illinois," Wautier said.

Public documents show in February 2022 several units in Four Peaks were purchased by LLCs that go back to the Chicago address of Rockwell Property Company.

It's a company that ABC15 has reported on that's come into condo complexes around the Valley, acquired 80% of the units, taken over the HOA, and forced the other 20% to sell as allowed by the state's condominium termination law. The units are then converted to apartment rentals.

Wautier is afraid their complex is next. But the company would need more units to take over the board.

Right now the legislature is considering Rep. Jeff Weninger's (R-Chandler) House Bill 2275, which would change the termination requirement from 80% to 100%. Wautier and other condo owners are lobbying legislators to pass it.

Until then they are on their own.

"What we are trying to do is prevent these big investors from basically coming in and taking over the homeowners association board of directors," Wautier said.

Their first step is to get their candidates on the board. After receiving the letter with the original candidates, homeowners got a petition to include additional homeowners of their choosing to compete for the spots. Wautier says the candidate pool has been expanded to 10 and now includes unit owners that her group supports.

She said it has not yet been revealed when and how people will be able to vote before the annual meeting that's scheduled to be held in April.

"I've asked them, what will the process be? When will we be allowed to vote? Will we have a window of X number of days to vote? And at this point, they're extremely reluctant to give me that information," she said.

For now she and her neighbors are holding out hope that they can fight long enough to keep their homes in their hands.

"I'm fighting for my dream, but my dream is shared by many," she said. "Many of our friends live there full-time. And that is their home, they don't want to be forced out."

ABC15 contacted Rockwell Property Company through their website and did not receive a response.

HB 2275 will be heard during the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, March 9 at 2 p.m. You can see the agenda and video link here.