Condo association sells unit after denying widow transfer of ownership

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. — A woman says the New Smyrna Beachfront condo her husband owned for more than a decade is being sold out from under her, after the condo association board denied the transfer of property from her late husband’s name to hers after he died.

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The Village of Colony Beach Club condominium declarations allow for board members to approve or deny the transfer of or sale of property for any reason. The attorney representing the woman says he has never actually seen it used in this way, and they plan to fight.

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There’s no disputing, the view Joan Cotton has grown accustomed to in her husband’s first-floor condo is priceless.

“When my husband saw this view, he knew he was buying this condo,” Cotton said.

The two-bedroom Colony Beach Club unit, owned by Cotton’s husband Jeffrey, is just steps away from a different one-bedroom unit in her name. When he passed away, she went through the probate process to claim what she says was always meant to be hers.

“He was not well, and we thought it would be good for me, if at some point I needed care when I get older or something, I would have a spare bedroom to do that with,” Cotton explained.

Then, late last month, she checked the mail to find a letter from the Condominium Association Board.

“The Board, by majority vote, has denied to transfer the estate,” she read aloud.

Instead of approving the transfer from her late husband’s name to hers, the COA sold the Cotton’s condominium for $466,500.

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“I started shaking, I started to cry,” Cotton said. “I called my daughter right away. It was horrible… you can’t just steal my condo!”

The condo association’s declarations allow for the Board to disapprove of such a transfer.

“It’s very common to have the right to deny transfers,” Board attorney Marlene Kirtland Kirian said.

“Does that make it right?” Karla Ray asked.

“I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, but they’re following their right to do that,” Kirtland Kirian said.

The letter Cotton received included $5000 in a deposit from the hopeful buyers. Her attorney Matt Firestone says the closing isn’t going to happen.

“I actually have never seen it used in any way, because I think typically there would be a lot of concern if you turn someone down if you don’t have a very compelling reason for it,” Firestone said.

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He believes his client is being retaliated against after suing the COA over alterations done to common areas within the community. That suit settled just weeks before the transfer was denied.

“I don’t want to sell this,” Cotton said. “My husband was so proud he was able to do this for us.”

The letter shows the expected closing is supposed to be on October 21. Kirtland Kirian says if this goes to court, the declarations make it clear the Association is within its right to do this, and she expects to prevail.

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Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.