The Waters Edge apartment building sits like a beige-and-white wedding cake where Coral Gables washes into Biscayne Bay. Here, the streets are lined with leafy trees, and fastidiously kept pools glisten like sapphires. But there is trouble in paradise. Ever since elections last April, a new condo board president has upended the old order by snapping photos of supposed offenses, slapping residents with fees, and even filing suit over funds owed.
"Jim Lowe is a condo commando," says Loretta Dawson, who lives in the 100 Edgewater Dr. apartment building with her two teenage boys. "He harasses everyone, including nannies and children. We live in beautiful Coral Gables, but he's making it miserable."
Lowe, a retired businessman turned snowbird, says he's only enforcing the condo's long-standing rules. His style may be abrasive, but it's saving the building hundreds of thousands of dollars. "I'm not a diplomat," he says. "But I don't think this is a dictatorship."
Lowe stalks the condo with a camera in hand, hoping to catch residents slipping, Dawson says: "He once sent me a picture of me eating a salad in the lobby and a note that said, 'Not Allowed.' Give me a break. That's ridiculous."
But Lowe's complaints have begun to bite. Dawson has been fined $1,000 for leaving her metal screen door open. "I'm a single mother with two kids," she says. "I barely make ends meet, but he's charging me fee after fee. It's just mean."
Dawson isn't the only one to complain. When another resident posted typed letters around the complex accusing Lowe of nearly hitting her by driving the wrong way through the parking lot, someone defaced the letter by scrawling "SHIT!"
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Aside from mounting fines, a handful of residents are on the hook for thousands in legal fees thanks to Lowe. When they failed to sign documents agreeing to tenting and fumigating the building for termites, Lowe sicced a lawyer on them. They all signed, but not quickly enough to avoid court costs.
"Lowe is terrorizing this place," says another resident.
But the condo president says the ends justify the means. The building has new elevators for the first time in a half-century. Lowe fired security guards and replaced them with cameras. And property values are on the rise. "When I took over, we were going to be broke by August and in receivership by December," he says. "Now we're ahead on our bills."
Lowe says he doesn't take the condo kerfuffle personally but has decided not to run again in April. "Believe me, nobody wants to be doing what I am doing. It's a thankless job."