tv America Tonight Al Jazeera October 15, 2015 2:30am-3:01am EDT
>> on "america tonight." aftermath. even after the waters recede, the worries are rising. >> did you have insurance for all your things? >> no. we don't make that kind of money that we can have extra to pay insurance. >> so how much did you lose? >> everything. >> a thousand-year rain and why a south carolina community in its path may face more troubles ahead. also tonight: stealing home. the florida law that's left coul
condo ownersed forced out even when they've done nothing wrong. >> we've worked all of our lives, been very responsible financially yet someone can come and take our home away from us. >> "america tonight's" sheila macvicar investigates the futures at risk. thanks for joining us. i'm joie chen. call it a snow bird snag. a particularity o pecularity of a florida law. with an outside impact. "america tonight's" sheila macvicar first told us about the rule that forced florida individuals out of their own homes even when they've done nothing wrong. after her first report the florida legislature made changes but in a follow up, sheila finds that
condo owners lie at risk to losing their homes. >> sheila, welcome to reply home. >> in 2003, nurse sylvia gregory emgreated from bul gair bulgaria. two bedroom condominium in tampa, florida. >> it looks nice. >> hi borrowed money on my credited an credit cards and consistently put money into this home. ak, water heater, everything has been redone, i would think in a sense of style. >> you have worked hard for this. >> very hard. i have put everything i have into making it a home. we had new bushes put in. >> now gregory could lose her home and not because of anything she's done. she's current on her mortgage, taxes, and association tease. instead, gregory risks losing
her home because of a controversial state law which undermines her property rights. a real estate investment company now owns most of the 1,000 units in gregory's development, grand oasis, and under florida law that company can force her to sell at an enormous loss. >> i have spent countless -- consume. countless of evenings crying. it is devastating .fest that you can come to a country that you believe has made for the people, by the people. to where you're protected by the
laws. and then somebody can come in and force you out of your homestead where you plan to have children and families. >> to understand why florida condo owners like gregory could lose their homes you need to go back to the destruction of the 2004 hurricane season. stormy weather that left a few florida condominium complexes damaged and in disrepair. that resulted in a 2007 florida law that allowed condominium complexes to be converted to rental apartments if 80% of the owners vote for the change. the process is called termination. and it was supposed to protect condo owners. instead, that law is now being used by wealthy property companies, so-called bulk buyers, who, since the real estate bust, have bought flocks of bearing-priced units in healthy complexes giving them
power to force even unwilling owners to sell. >> basically we would be -- >> forced out. >> you would be forced out? >> according to this law we would have to sell. and we would have to leave our unit. >> it's a property windfall for companies and a disaster for homeowners. like linda and joe cunningham, a school teacher and retired philadelphia police officer. >> we worked all our lives. we've been very responsible financially yet somebody could come in and take our home away there us. >> this spring after bad publicity, florida amended the state's condominium law, os tense tbl ostensibly to, prevent conversion to rental apartments. gregory and other condo owners in florida thought their homes were safe. but that amendment isn't working out for gregory and others in grand oasis and hundreds more across the state who still risk being forced out of their homes.
>> even if you lose at least you know that you tried everything. >> doreen lives down the street from sylvia gregory. she says she'd lose $130,000 if the complex's terminated and she's forced to sell. >> what will it mean for you if they do terminate? >> oh, i might have to work a lot longer than 65. i'm almost 54 years old. why should i have to start all over again? i think it's rotten. >> the legislature, this last session, passed a law that was supposed to protect homeowners >> correct. >> what happened? >> a lot of the people that thought would be protected by the new law are not. >> hidden in the new amendment are loopholes which favor big real estate. sylvia gregory isn't covered because she didn't buy her condo from the original developer.
if she had the law says gregory would get the purchase price or the market value whichever is greater. instead, gregory bought her unit in foreclosure. >> it does not protect people like me who bought at the low of the market. >> two bedroom two bath. >> doreen did buy from the original developer so she should be protected under the law except for another loophole. developers filed a document here president with the county. an amendment to condominium rules saying grand oasis would follow the state law as it exists on the date of recording this amendment. the date: june 4th. that's after state lawmakers passed the new condo legislation, but before governor rick scott signed it into law. >> the governor signed the bill on the 16th of june. >> so this amendment basically says -- >> oh there's a new law but we
aren't going to pay any attention to the new law. >> yes, that's basically what it's saying. >> and then there's the case of nadia and tyson la mont. nadia bought a condominium in st. pete. then she married and rents her condominium. >> i have no desire to sell. >> how are you required to sell? >> well, they are the 80% bulk owners, we have no right to sell, based on the laws written. from what i understand, it is intended to properties that are going to be condemned and are suffering. this apartment complexity is not suffering at all. >> nadia la mont bought her condominium from the developer so she too should be covered by the new law. except for provision that only protects people who use their
condos as a primary residence. so the fine print of the new law leaves the la monts facing a for forced sale on a condo that's $70,000 underwater. >> right now if we have to pay another $70,000 with no rental income there's not going to be a choice for us. we're going to have to sell our house and that's pretty much it. >> none of the big investors who are buying these bulk purchases returned our e-mails or phone calls, so we decided to go to tallahassee. to speak to one of the co-sponsors of the new law, david martin asked the senator about the loophole grand oasis used to get out of the law, simply adding a date on a piece of paper. >> is that something legitimate
mat in your view? >> i don't know. can they do that? >> i'm not a lawyer. >> no one last contacted my office. >> we also wanted to know why lawmakers added provisions requiring condo owners to live full time in their units. the one that potentially leaves the la monts owing the banks $70,000. >> we want to take care of those who bought them as opposed to renters. people that were having investment properties. so we were trying to take care of the people that, you know, that were using them for residences. >> i haven't heard any issues from people that live in the condos. as far as i know, unless my girls in the office haven't told me about it. but i thought we were under, you know, we were headed in the right direction. >> it'sing in but thit's anythit direction for the la montes, sylvia gregory and others,
suffering big losses, as owners of big complexes convert and force them to sell. >> this is a business deal to them and all that it is. it is business, it's our lives but to them it's business. >> "america tonight's" sheila macvicar is with us. explain this to us. the law is actually supposed to help these people. >> the law was written to end this problem of bulk buyers being able to force owners out of their condominiums at a forced price sale at a price that they set basically. only in the process in the time that the law was written to the time that the law was passed it went through committee hearings, it went through amendments. and one of the things that's most nobl noticeable of the florida legislative season are the presence of lobbyists. on the other side of the table are property interests with very deep pockets. and they were able to whittle away at the bill. >> and unless it has changed.
and in the cases of the people you profiled, they have done a lot of things that americans are doing these days, picking up properties at auctions, foreclosures? >> all perfectly within america's been understood system of buying and selling realities. there is nothing wrong with foreclosure. there is nothing wrong with if you have got a condominium and you want to move on and i buy it from you, that's a secondary market, nothing wrong with that. this law is deliberately written to not protect people who do things that are perfectly legal. >> this woman coming from bulgaria, making an investment in her life, in america? >> her belief in america. for all these people their belief is, if the bulk buyer, a very wealthy property owner out
of texas, if he decides to get rid of the remaining owners and have grand oasis entirely as a rental project, rental complex, he can do that and can force her out regardless of the amount of money she has put into her unit, regardless of the upgrades she has put in, which of course the company will benefit from because they will charge more rent for that unit, no compensation for that whatsoever. >> so for the people who are thinking about investing in florida, thinking about buying a foreclosure? >> this is the law on the books. the law doesn't protect you unless you live in your first. if you are a snow bird and you want a vacation place then don't. the law doesn't protect you if you are buying on the secondary market or a foreclosure or whatever. so don't. if something happens in your complex and if a bulk buyer is able to come in and able to take advantage of there law and other
economic factors and buy up to 80% of the units, then you can be out. and you can be out, with nothing, and still owe on your mortgage. >> it is shocking. let the buyer beware on this one, "america tonight's" sheila macvicar. next, turning on the taps. what california is doing to safe the salten sea. and later, where there's too much water, the waters are falling but beware. diseases from half a world away and why they've become a problem in the world's warmer
>> we fast-forward now to a move to save a shrinking sea. california is suffering from a fourth year of drought and its inland sea is suffering consequences. "america tonight's" michael okwu brought us to the edge to find the health risk, the drought could pose to people in california. >> we're heading to the salten sea the largest lake in the state of california and it's drying up. the fallout from that could be disastrous. approach the lake from a distance and it's deceptively beautiful, post card perfect, but not up close. >> oh, the smell! when you get to the beach it becomes pretty clear what that foul odor is all about. it's dead fish.
within about ten feet of me there are literally dozens of them. if you took a walk along the beach you would see hundreds if not thousands of carcasses. the sea is shrinking. scientists say it's an ecological time bomb, the loss of bird habitat and ecological costs could reach as high as $70 billion over the next 30 years. according to a public institute report. governor jerry brown tapped bruce wilcox to figure out a way to save the salten sea, all of this toxic dust being exposed on the lake bed when the water recedes. >> some level of pesticides and fertilizers, not a large amount but when it settles into the into the bottom of the lake bed, all
of those contaminants go into people's lungs. >> some worry that could generate up to 100 tons of dust a day, and travel to los angeles, potentially exposing millions of people. 30 miles south in the farming town of el centro, we meet a woman who believes the dust is making her children sick. dolores aguilar's children both have asthma. mornings always start like this. >> fast forward now to the first trickle of help. just days after michael okwu's first report, california governor jerry brown signed a bill aimed at saving the salten sea. over the next six months california will develop a plan to restore the walters.
>> the floodwaters began to peak a full week ago, but south carolina is still suffering from the deluge. floodwaters washed on much of the palmetto state. many areas are still closed. we traveled to the heart of the peaty region. have the way over to john britton's house should be an easy walk. >> it's already dropped two and
a half, three foot. little bit more than that probably. >> we just went over a fence. >> yep, a six foot tall fence. >> six days after what's been dubbed the thousand year rain, the nearby streets, the park lots behind the house he, the backyards, all of it remains deep underwater. >> it's about eight or ten foot deep here, and normally this is dry land. this is a hill. >> we're on a hill? >> yep. >> the only way for britton to get home is by boat. >> right here it's probably 25 foot deep. this is my louse in here. >> so we're now in your yard? >> yep, this is my yard. >> holy cow! >> the dark waters of the black river didn't discriminate. throodin flooding britton's house and wrecking the highways just a few hundred yards around the bend. most of the folks who live in this area are
low-income. >> low-income and government-funded housing. out. did you catch anything roy? >> not yet. >> folks like roy wilson only realized, how high the rain hadd gotten, when his granddaughter saw fish jumping in his backyard. >> i said what? >> he got his family out safely but the second time since the flood the reality of a second crisis is setting in. >> did you have insurance? >> no, we don't make that kind of money that we can have supraenough to pay insurance. >> how much di extraenough to have insurance. >> everything. >> this is a poor community in a poor state. more than a third of the population of williamsonburg
county lives in poverty. and in this dot-in-the-map town, 70 miles from any of south carolina's three big cities, columbia, charleston and myrtle beach , williamson says, a community like his play miss the boat. >> we lost everything. shouldn't it be equal? i guess it's politics and something i don't know anything about. but i do know right from wrong. and it would be terrible if they would just overlook us just because we're small. >> low income communities may have reason to worry. >> people who are most impacted by storms are low income people. if you are poor before a storm hits you're going to be driven deeper into poverty. >> the evidence says tracy ross of the center for american progress follows every weather disaster.
>> while people like to say that extreme weather events such as hurricanes and floods are great equalizers that don't discriminate based off of race or ethnicity, it's not true. >> eight years after hurricane katrina drove public housing from their homes, they returned to less than a third. and less than half of new york city's public housing residents were displaced by hurricane sandy. >> we tend to look at this as a linear issue and it's 92nd that way at ul.
plenty of people were displaced and not able to return. >> in the short term, major storms are left communities without power and clean water for weeks and residents with few options for shelter. >> when you came back what did you find? >> this, a disaster. >> it's not supposed to look like -- your floor! >> here, it's actually -- >> your floor is giving in. >> it is, all over in all the rooms. >> sheila chandler took her family to a motel for the first few nights. she came back hoping to find something left to salvage. >> what did you lose? >> everything, except for a few pieces of clothing i could have saved, but everything, food, furniture, bed, tvs, and everything of my kids. >> you don't have a place to stay, you don't have food. >> no. i buy little by little with the little bit of money that i have but i'm about out of that.
i'm trying to figure out what's next. >> the king street neighbors were relieved to see the first signs of help. fema inspectors arrived so quickly. for process being their claims it could take time and there's no guarantee how much aid, if any, the government will provide. >> do you believe them? >> i want to. right now i'm going to, i have to, i have no choice but right now i see what the outcome is, we'll all find out sooner or later. >> what do you think will happen? >> i hope something good happens, because i lost everything don't have the money to replace flog. so. >> face -- replace flog so. >> it is a challenge to have much hope. >> yeah, i worry because we don't know whether we're going to get help or not. >> but roy wilson reminds me that this small southern community has held itself to
coatogether by faith and prayer.. >> maybe the government will see fit to help the small people as because -- >> are you counting on it? >> yes, i'm doing more than counting on it. i'm praying for it. me and my church. maybe every church in waynesboro county that's being affected, because we really, really need it. we do. >> they need the help. we will see if they get it. that is "america tonight." please tell us what you think at aljazeera.com/americatonight. talk to us on twitter or facebook and please come back. we'll have more of maint "america >> they don't fear anything. >> they're consuming economically important species >> we're offering something on our menu that no-one else is offering.
palestinian president mahmoud abbas warns that israel's actions in the occupied territories could spark a religious conflict. ♪ ♪ hello, this is al jazeera live from doha: also ahead. the syrian army launches a major offensive the extr strategic cif hommes. divisions remain. and warnings of a medical emergency as some african countries come close to running out of a snake bite