About 500 homeowners are part of a class-action lawsuit against the owner of a 55-plus community in Sumter County, according to attorneys.
The suit accuses the developer of charging each of them hundreds of dollars every month in maintenance fees that they question.
Investigative reporter Karla Ray went to Wildwood and found some amenities the homeowners claim they were promised, but they are not owned by the community anymore.
Situated between Highway 44 and Lake Okahumpka in Sumter County, hundreds of seniors call the Wildwood Country Resort home.
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“We drove up, and it was such a beautiful quiet place at the time,” homeowner Suzanne Piotrowicz said.
The lake access and boat ramp that Suzanne Piotrowicz and Vaughn Harris say the neighborhood used to enjoy, are now fenced off and blocked with a "No trespassing" sign.
“It's a loss because we enjoyed going back there,” Harris said.
It’s a loss they question as they continue to pay maintenance fees for other amenities at the private community every month. The fees are the crux of a class-action lawsuit, claiming residents were charged "artificially high monthly maintenance fees," and that the owner allegedly "fabricated and falsely inflated the community’s expenses."
“It's now $361 a month, and it started off in the low $200s. And, we have less now, and we're paying a lot more,” Piotrowicz said.
The owner of the private community, Jonathan Woods, told 9 Investigates he has provided records to residents detailing the costs to maintain community amenities, including the clubhouse and pool, and that it is his company’s position that the charges have been consistent with deed restrictions.
But, Woods agreed that a judge should rule on whether his profit margin of up to 10% is being calculated fairly.
“This case, when it comes across my desk, I'm annoyed. That's on a good day. On a bad day, I'm mad,” attorney Laura Coleman said.
Coleman is part of the legal team trying to prove the residents have overpaid.
Woods, who is also an attorney, declined an interview, saying he was restricted from commenting on the case by the Florida Bar.
Woods, however, said he disagrees with the claims and is looking forward to his day in court.
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