NBC 5 Responds

Frustration Turned Desperation: Woodridge Country Club Homeowners Remain Homeless 21 Months After Tornado

Two dozen homeowners say repair delays have left them homeless after an EF-3 tornado struck a year and nine months prior. Now, elected leaders have pledged to come to their aid.

NBC Universal, Inc.

A sense of frustration and desperation has settled in for many Woodridge homeowners 21 months after an EF-3 tornado severely damaged their homes and their lives.

For two dozen homeowners who are part of the Woodridge Country Club Association #5, a group of condo units off of Country Club Drive, their homes today remain uninhabitable after many delays in starting the repairs necessary to rebuild.

Yet, optimism was on display at a Monday news conference where local and state elected representatives gathered to share news of the problem, and what they are doing to step in and fix it.

“We see a little light at the end of the tunnel,”  State Senator and Republican Minority Leader John Curran told reporters. “We must remain persistent.”   

Woodridge Country Club Association #5 was one of many areas left badly damaged after an EF-3 tornado tore through the area on Father’s Day, June 20, 2021.

Many condos and apartments in the area were determined to be uninhabitable, with severe damages to the units’ roof, foundation, and plumbing/electrical systems, to name a few of the items on the priority list, according to an email from the property manager sent to homeowners months after the tornado hit.

This meant homeowners would have to find another place to stay while the repairs were underway.

In some cases, NBC 5 Responds found that translated to some owners paying mortgages on their damaged condos, while also paying rent for apartments they needed until they could move back home, as well as HOA, water and gas bills for the damaged units they weren’t living in.

Now, a year and nine months later, NBC 5 Responds and Telemundo Chicago Responde have been trying to find answers to many homeowners' questions, including when construction will start, and who’s to blame for months of delays.

One homeowner described communication from the condo association’s property management company as “condescending,” while others have voiced frustrations about the lack of results and timeline for when repairs will start.

MC Property Management Corporation (MCPMC,) the property manager hired by the Country Club’s Homeowners Association, told NBC 5 it has done everything in its power to get residents back into their homes.

“This Tornado caused an extremely large insurance loss for the association and we have worked tirelessly to get to a resolution with the insurance carrier,” Carlo Caprio, MCPMC’s Director of Operations, told NBC 5 Responds. “The scope of work and funding for this reconstruction is significant and this is why it has taken so much time to get a resolution.”

‘A lot of frustration…  It’s just disbelief.’

Homeowners looking for answers shared with NBC 5 Responds all emailed updates they have received from their property manager, since June 2021.

Two months after the tornado struck, an email from MCPMC to homeowners shared a list of the items that would need to be repaired, and specifically advised residents to “hold off” on any repairs, until it could determine the full scope of work needed.

“We are asking homeowners to hold off on their respective repairs at this time until the engineer is done with their respective inspections, and this information is reviewed by the association’s insurance adjuster on what the next best steps are for all parties involved,” MCPMC told homeowners on Aug. 31, 2021.  Homeowners tell NBC 5 Responds they could have never imagined that they would still be “holding off” on repairs a year and nine months later.

“If you go by the communication of the HOA, it seems that the insurance is dragging their feet,” said Vijayrag Mahida, whose parents are among the Woodridge homeowners left homeless.

“If you go by homeowners, it’s the association’s responsibility to complete the repairs in a timely manner and this just has not occurred yet. It’s kind of hard to figure out who is at fault here,” Mahida said.

Mahida’s parents bought their Woodridge Country Club 5 townhome back in 2001, and it was where he was raised.

But ever since the tornado, Mahida said his parents have been living with him and his wife. Money paid through his parents’ personal insurance policy ran out within months, and now they’re waiting for the repairs so they can go back to living their lives normally.

Vijayrag Mahida shows NBC 5 Responds the home he grew up in, now gutted and awaiting repairs, off of Country Club Drive in Woodridge.

“Everything’s out of pocket,” Mahida said. “We had two months of insurance money... Then we ran out. After that, it was up to me to provide for my family.”

The price tag required to bring all of the Woodridge Country Club owners back into their homes is estimated to cost more than four million dollars.

In an email MCPMC sent homeowners this past January, the property manager said its Public Adjuster established a total cost estimate for repairs in August 2022, more than a year after the tornado struck.

But after calculating that estimate, the property manager’s public adjuster apparently hit another hurdle: Getting full approval from its insurance provider, Farmers Insurance.

“In late August of 2022 the Public Adjuster (PA) on behalf of the General Contractor (GC) submitted a $4.6 million dollar proposal to the association’s insurance adjuster at Farmers [Insurance,]” MCPMC wrote to homeowners on Jan. 9, 2023. “The Farmers Insurance Adjuster was still not in agreement as to what was submitted.” 

In a statement to NBC 5 Responds, MCPMC said on Monday it recently made headway with Farmers Insurance.

Caprio with MCPMC said by email, “On Friday March 31, I received some positive news that the insurance carrier has approved a significant payout for the construction phase of this project.”

“We are now awaiting the documentation to be finalized so that we know what funding was approved and when we can start the reconstruction efforts to get these residents back into their homes,” Caprio wrote.

A spokesperson for Farmers Insurance told NBC 5 on Monday, “We are continuing to work with our customer to resolve this claim.”

In addition to making headway with their insurance provider, lawmakers and elected leaders on Monday said they are also looking into whether any state resources could be available for homeowners.

Woodridge Mayor Gina Cunningham and other elected leaders held a news conference at Country Club 5 on Monday, April 3, to discuss the tornado damage repair delays.

Illinois state Rep. Anna Stava-Murray for the 81st District said lawmakers are in discussions to provide state assistance to those survivors who find themselves under-insured.”

Other elected leaders pointed out that with so many storms, insurance companies should know that legislators at the state and federal level are watching.

Congressman Bill Foster of the 11th District said, “Most have done their job, we just need to make sure that every one of them [insurers] do their job.” 

During the Monday news conference, an exasperated homeowner spoke up while elected leaders were talking, saying that he believes that MCPMC is at least partly to blame for the delays. 

He complained to lawmakers that management is “condescending” to residents who try to ask questions.

“They’re very nice and polite to you. They’re not the same to us,” the homeowner, who did not identify himself, said. “And that’s one of the complaints that I have, when you’re trying to help solve a situation and you don’t get any help from the property managers.”

The Woodridge Country Club’s Homeowners Association or HOA's Acting President, Bill Buckholts, was quick to approach the microphone and refute that.

“Everybody, including MC Property [Management,] has been by our side,” Buckholts said. “Trust me, I live here too. I feel the same issues and grief.”

Massive storms and at least one “confirmed large and extremely dangerous tornado” tore through suburban Chicago late Sunday night, causing massive damage in Naperville, Woodridge, Darien and more.

There are some bright spots out of the Woodridge devastation.

A nonprofit called “Woodridge Neighbors Helping Neighbors (WNHN)” was created after the tornado to assist with disaster recovery, and on Monday, the organization said it has successfully helped many dealing with their losses.

WNHN board co-chair Dianne O’Donnell said the organization has fundraised and supported many homeowners, with food and clothing donated by fellow residents.

For Mahida, he tells NBC 5 the costs are still adding up.  

While his parents had paid off their Woodridge condo, they are still on the hook for insurance, water, gas and HOA fees, still required for the home they can’t even live in.

“Water isn’t even functioning here and we’re paying for that,” said Mahida. “It’s just a shock. No one ever expected a tornado in this area. When we got the tornado, a lot of people were displaced, a lot of my neighbors. And we’re still trying to recover.”

But adding to the feelings, Mahida acknowledges homeowners are still trying to understand how things got to this point.

“It seems there’s a lot of finger pointing as to who is to blame, and not a lot of owning up to your commitment,” Mahida told NBC 5 Responds.

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