Displaced residents balk at collapsed condo settlement offer

WASHINGTON — Residents of a partially collapsed condominium in Fairfax County can avoid condo fees on units they can’t live in — if they promise never to sue the owners’ association.

Residents of River Towers Condominium, in the county’s Alexandria section, still face months of repairs before they could return to their units, almost six weeks after one wing of the building dropped and shifted several inches due to years of water damage.

Building officials for Fairfax County have said repairs could take several months, because engineers will have to use jacks to elevate the structure at 6631 Wakefield Drive to return it to its original position.

On Oct. 2, the building partially collapsed and sagged. Many residents were able to return to their homes after an initial survey, except for those living in the 32-unit front wing.

WTOP has obtained a copy of a waiver offered to residents on Nov. 11, which would allow them to avoid paying monthly condominium fees while out of their homes, for six months, as long as they agree not to sue — a settlement offer that several unit owners and local lawmakers consider unfair.

“All we had to do was sign a waiver promising (no) further action. Of any kind, and apparently ever,” said one resident, who requested anonymity.

“We are all still homeless, insurance will not touch us until we have definitive answers about what happened, and now as long as we promise not to sue they will forgive the HOA fees for units we cannot live in,” said the resident in an email to WTOP.

In a Wednesday meeting hosted by the building’s unit owners’ association — with Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck and Virginia Del. Mark Levine in attendance — residents voiced anger about the waiver offer.

In a WTOP interview, Storck said government officials “aren’t in the business of offering legal advice,” but said he and Levine suggested that residents not sign the waiver in its present form.

Levine, who represents the area in the House of Delegates, declined to speak specifically about the waiver. But he said he is “working with all interested parties to reach a fair resolution.”

At this point, no residents have signed the offered waiver, according to sources.

Emails and voicemails requesting comment from River Towers officials were not returned.

Columns supporting the front portico in the affected building have deteriorated after years of water infiltration, Brian Foley, the building official for Fairfax County, has said.

Neighboring buildings at 6621 Wakefield Drive and 6641 Wakefield Drive have been bolstered with steel supports during the repair of similar water damage.

Foley has said building engineers have determined “there is no imminent threat of additional collapse.”

A final report detailing the damage is due in the first week of December, according to housing officials.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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