Owners of condos evacuated from Horizon West must raze the building by September 20 | Waukesha County News

WAUKESHA — Nine months after being evacuated from their homes at Horizon West Condo, condo owners are beginning to return to normal. However, an ongoing civil lawsuit against the insurance company and the impending bulldozing order for the building, 315 N. West Ave., left the dust hanging in the air.

“For all of us coming back to life after the condo, the hardest part is there’s still so much uncertainty,” condo owner Laurel Peterson told The Freeman.

Peterson spoke about the lawsuit and how without a resolution, it’s hard to completely move on.

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All owners of Horizon West were required to carry homeowners insurance for their units, and the condo association also had an insurance policy through Travelers Insurance for the common areas and the structure of the building as a whole, Peterson said.

In April, 27 of the condo owners filed a $17 million lawsuit against Travelers Insurance for failure to pay claims. Travelers Insurance will not comment on pending litigation.

Horizon West has insured the building for a new cost of over $17 million.

The suit added that the building is a total loss.

“In its latest cover letter, Travelers goes so far as to say that since the razing order was issued, there is no cover but if the building collapses, Travelers could cover,” said the suit.

Peterson said a judge has been assigned to the case in Federal Court.

“We know each other and the insurance company has submitted all our documents. We’re just waiting for the judge to make a decision because it’s not a jury trial or anything,” she said.

Peterson hopes for a resolution within the next month. According to Peterson, depending on the results of the lawsuit, this can really affect many condo owners.

“For me, maybe I should file for bankruptcy. I won’t really know if I should until we know the outcome of the trial. It’s hard because you can’t make long-term financial plans to really go beyond that,” Peterson said.

Peterson rents an apartment but has had to move twice in the past nine months. Originally she had a short term lease and the place was too small for her, his wife and daughter.

“Moving twice a year isn’t much fun, but it had to be done to be somewhere we felt comfortable,” she said.

“The building must be razed”

Residents of Horizon West were evacuated from their houses with 15 minutes’ notice on December 2 due to the risk of impending collapse. The city issued a shaving order in January for the Horizon West building, which residents appealed. The date is September 20 to demolish the dilapidated condominium building.

According to Peterson, the razing order “requires the owners to bring in over $1 million in funds to complete the demolition, which includes special asbestos abatement due to the materials used in the construction of Horizon.” West in 1966. If the association cannot come up with those funds and remove the building within 120 days, then the city will make its own arrangements to demolish it at its own expense and charge the owners in the form of a tax lien” , she previously said in a statement.

“We’ve been working with the city and they want us to put up signs on the ground floor because of issues with squatters,” Peterson said.

Waukesha City Administrator Kevin Lahner said the city issued the razing order, but condo owners were responsible for destroying the building.

“From a code enforcement and safety code perspective, the building needs to be razed. We issued those orders,” but it is up to the owners to deal with them, Lahner said.

Lahner added that this is a complex issue because there are multiple owners and not a typical single-owner building type.

“When it comes to how we apply our code, we can’t do anything differently. The owners of the building have been ordered to demolish the building and if they don’t, there is a multi-step process to force that to happen,” he said. Lahner said it’s not surprising that an older building has some level of contamination or asbestos. An environmental clean-up is carried out followed by a top-to-bottom demolition.

The removal of material requires special precautions such as taking it to a special landfill.

“There are a lot of things that have to happen with asbestos. In this particular build there are a lot of them,” he said.

To raze the building, a demolition permit would be posted.

Due to the unique situation with multiple owners, Lahner said, “It’s going to take some time. It will take a long time and not a short time before it is demolished,” he said.

That’s unless condo owners are successful with the insurance company paying, he added.

“Until there are funds available, it’s very expensive, it will most likely be a long process,” Lahner said.


Many displaced condo owners have had to restart their retirement plans or return to work after retiring. Residents continue to pay their old mortgages, finance new living arrangements and may have to pay the bill for the demolition of the building.

“Our residents are really people who just bought the condo and have their own mortgage, it’s brand new. Other people who had been there for decades and had fully paid off their mortgages. Basically, the equity in the condo was their retirement,” Peterson said.

She added that they had essentially lost their retirement and now had to figure out how they could afford an apartment and what to do instead of planning for the potential sale of their condo and moving to a retirement home.

“We have a member who had retired the day we were evacuated from the condo. He had to give up his retirement and is already over 70 years old. There are also people who were able to move on quite quickly,” she said.

It has been difficult for those struggling to make ends meet.

A GoFundMe account has been created for Horizon West Condominium owners to help offset the financial burden they are facing. It can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-48-evacuated-families.

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