Horizon West moving-out plan underway - 1

A U-Haul truck sits in front of the Horizon West Condominiums, at 315 N. West Ave., in December 2021. Following the evacuation of the building on Dec. 2, 2021, residents were able to start moving out.

WAUKESHA — Residents of Horizon West Condominiums plan on appealing a federal judge’s decision in favor of the insurance company they sued.

Residents of Horizon West Condominiums were evacuated from their homes with 15 minutes’ notice on Dec. 2 due to risk of imminent collapse.

In April, 27 of the condo owners filed a $17 million lawsuit against Travelers Insurance for failing to pay claims. Horizon West had insured the building for a replacement value at over $17 million.

The suit added the building is a total loss.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman upheld arguments put forth by the Travelers Indemnity Company of Connecticut and ruled that whatever losses the residents of the Horizon West Condominiums, 315 N. West Ave., endured were not covered by the policy in place at the time, and several exclusions to coverage applied.

“The Horizon West Homeowners plan on appealing. We are disappointed in the decision and intend to continue moving forward. The Horizon West homeowners lost all of the equity in their condos and still owe on the notes and mortgages for the property. Many have asked whether bankruptcy is an option. We will not give up. Justice must be served,” according to Michael J. Ganzer, the lawyer for the condo residents.

Todd Dreger, condo resident, said he felt numb and as though he had been gutpunched.

“Two weeks from tonight, [the anniversary of] the worst experience I’ve ever encountered. I was evacuated from my home. Ricardo and I were officially homeless,” Dreger said.

He is grateful no one was hurt as the building was evacuated.

“This journey has been interesting. The journey started with uncertainties, will we be able to get any or all of our possessions? Can we find a place to live? Because we sure didn’t want to live out of a hotel! Pluses would be if we could move our belongings,” Dreger said.

Luckily they found a place to rent in December and moved in on Christmas Eve.

“The federal court has decided to side with Travelers Insurance, yet again, we are out in the cold! As we approach the year anniversary of this nightmare, we find ourselves being sued by the city to have the building dropped. I find myself with one month left of my Mortgage Forbearance, along with others in our building. So many questions, no answers. The amount of money lost is mounting, the mortgage companies and credit card companies want their money...where does it come from, especially when your rent is 2x times more than your mortgage was? And then there are the folks that owed nothing, they are out even more. When does the craziness end?” Dreger said.

“It’s like the movie “Groundhog Day” on steroids. I’m living this not only for me, it’s my other 48 neighbors as well.”

‘Like a bad nightmare we can’t wake up from’

Laurel Peterson, another condo owner, said she was very disappointed with the judge’s ruling.

“We are planning to appeal through our attorney, so I do still have some hope that we may still have some sort of remedy. It’s frustrating that whether it’s the city or the insurance company that neither seem willing to help us or show an appreciation for just how devastating this situation has been for me and the other condo owners. We didn’t just lose our home, we lost our financial stability and even though we’ve all found new housing, we all continue to suffer the emotional and financial effects of this. It’s like a bad nightmare we can’t wake up from,” Peterson said.

A GoFundMe was set up to help the condo owners. According to a June update on the GoFundMe, “Many owners have also seen a deterioration of their physical health since the evacuation. For others, just the logistics of moving suddenly and without warning was dizzying. Other residents have found themselves having to make changes to their lifestyles and standard of living. All of them have suffered financial hardship, both in equity and monthly expenditures.

“The owners do acknowledge that they are fortunate the problem was found before an actual collapse occurred. In addition, many owners have found a small bright spot to their plight through the kindness of family and friends and even strangers in their time of need. Help is still needed.”

To donate go to https://bit.ly/3HjDxXY.