PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — It’s been three months since a fire broke out at Charlestowne Condominiums on Greenwood Drive in Portsmouth. In that time, 10 On Your Side has learned five units were damaged that day and those who live there have yet to get back into their homes.
The fire on April 13 started in the kitchen of a home daycare and led to seven children being hospitalized.
Those displaced told 10 On Your Side they feel like they’re getting the runaround. Many have been forced to stay in hotels or Airbnb’s while still paying monthly condo fees, stuck in limbo and desperate for answers.
“The first month I stayed in a hotel, but after that I’ve been staying in my storage with my stuff because I have no family here,” said Walter Black who lives next door to the unit where the fire started.
Black’s home and the unit next door were both condemned.
Denise Anderson owns the property at 4516 Greenwood Drive that caught fire. Anderson has rented her home to Dewanna Seward for the last two years and claims she had no idea there was a daycare inside her property. Now, Anderson’s home sits condemned as she waits for it to be rebuilt.
“The whole unit, the whole place is a disaster,” Anderson explained.
Anderson says contractors have come by to survey the five damaged units, giving an estimate of just over $3 million to make the repairs. When the contractors reached out to the property manager, Phil Massa of Atlantic Community Management (ACM), he didn’t respond.
“Terrible, terrible. It’s always like this,” Black said.
Anderson says the first restoration company even backed out and a second one was contacted by ACM to do the job. Anderson showed us messages between her and Massa that blame the first company backing out on the homeowners harassing the contractors, saying “they were too busy, but I had heard that they were being harrassed and cursed at by several of the Charlestowne unit owners.”
Anderson denies that ever happened and showed messages between herself and the first company who boarded up her property. In a message from the first company to Anderson via text, the contractor states, “we have been waiting on an update from the adjuster handling the [condo] association’s master policy. We haven’t heard anything.”
One homeowner who didn’t want to show his face told 10 On your Side he just moved back into his home after paying $6,000 out of pocket to repair water damage that made his unit uninhabitable. He said he’s still waiting to be reimbursed by ACM.
“We’ve been gone for two months, staying at various Airbnb’s, family, friends, couch to couch. We work every day. We don’t deserve to live like this. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Homeowners say for three months they tried going to Massa for answers with little to no response.
“I’m told ‘Phil Massa’s in a meeting. He’s not available. He’ll call you back.’ I even went up to the office and was told the same thing.’ He’s not here right now, we’ll get the message to him, he’ll call you back.’ Never received a call. I never even heard his voice before,” the man who asked we not use his name said.
Meanwhile they are still paying condo fees of at least $200 a month.
“I just want somebody to start the work and be accountable. My bedroom walls and everything were torn down so that has to be repaired and water damage all over the floor. When I first moved here it was a nice neighborhood. Clean, no garbage. A lot of older people lived here. Quiet. Now? Terrible,” Black stated.
Anderson says her insurance company, Nationwide, has also had trouble getting in contact with Massa for answers and shared screenshots of her correspondence with Nationwide which say, “Phil hasn’t been easy to reach. Sorry, this is so frustrating. Until everything is settled with VPIA [Massa’s insurance] and I have an estimate in hand from them, I don’t know how to guide you.”
Charlestowne homeowners say all they want is transparency and to know how to proceed.
“I reached out to you guys for answers,” Anderson stated.
10 on your Side went to Massa’s home in Norfolk and heard a man talking on the other side of the door. No one answered.
After months of trying to contact the property manager through phone, text, email and stopping by the office, 10 on Your Side finally received a text message:
“Yes, we plan to fix the damaged units. The insurance company for the owner of the source unit has not yet completed their investigation. The first contractor we contacted to provide an estimate and a contract declined the job almost a month after we contacted them. We just received a revised claim on Monday from the Association Insurance Adjuster.”
The statement goes on to say:
“We are working on the problem but under normal conditions, situations like this just take time and the current labor and material shortages are certainly not going to expedite the repairs. The owners will be contacted as soon as we have more information. Contrary to rumors going around the community, the insurance company has not issued a check.”
Check WAVY.com for the latest updates.