Kelley Uustal Trial Attorney
August 14, 2010

Buyer Feels Shortchanged

Rebecca Riley spent $873,000 for a condo unit in the posh Las Olas River House last year, but the real estate agent now feels a bit shortchanged.

Riley discovered her condo unit is actually 490 square feet smaller than the size disclosed in the project’s marketing materials, according to a lawsuit she filed Thursday against developers Tarragon South Development Corp. and Omni Development Corp. The 15-page suit in Broward Circuit Court is for the amount she claims she overpaid – $163,170.

“When she sells the unit, she’s going to sell a 2,100-square-foot unit, and she’s going to take a bath,” said John Uustal, Riley’s Fort Lauderdale lawyer. She thought she bought a 2,618-square-foot unit, he added.

Uustal said there are other unit owners in Las Olas River House in the same predicament and he expects to file similar claims on their behalf. The 42-story building, downtown Fort Lauderdale’s tallest, sits between Las Olas Boulevard and the New River and has about 278 units.

William Friedman, chairman and chief executive of New York-based Tarragon, said he had not seen the suit but noted that Riley bought her unit a year after the building was completed.

“She saw the apartment before she moved in,” Friedman said. “The actual apartment is something she inspected. She could have measured it.”

Uustal countered that many other buyers didn’t see their units because they bought prior to construction.

Las Olas River House’s condominium declaration, a 236-page legal document recorded in Broward County in 2004 and given to each unit owner, reflects the true size of Riley’s 19th-floor unit – 2,128.92 square feet.

“Buyers of condominiums . . . unfortunately don’t read the declaration,” said real estate analyst Michael Y. Cannon, managing director of Integra Realty Resources – South Florida.

“It’s a shame that they don’t. If they did, they would be more prudent and understand what they purchased.”

Uustal said the unit’s actual size was “buried” in the “giant document.”

Las Olas River House’s website shows the two-bedroom, three-bath unit model Riley bought as 2,618 square feet, excluding the balcony. Uustal said the developers should have corrected their advertising.

“A lot of people in the building have really been upset about it,” Uustal said, referring to what he called the misleading advertising.

Hall-of-Fame quarterback Dan Marino served as a pitch man for Las Olas River House and bought a unit as part of the endorsement deal. Property records show that he sold the 33rd-floor unit for $1.25 million last month. The buyer was RWR Family Holdings LLC of Weston.

Omni, the co-developer, is no longer affiliated with Las Olas River House.

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