Orpheum Office Building owners association sues Randy Johnston and Hubris Communications

WICHITA — Chris Owen and Randy Johnston purchased the fourth floor of the Orpheum Office Building for a steal last summer, but it’s been anything but a bargain since then.

“We saw this and thought it might be a deal, and it turned out to be a really good deal, or so we thought,” Owen says.

“They think they did their homework, but they didn’t,” says Ram Mofsowitz, president of the building’s owners association.

At issue is the way utilities, janitorial services and other common expenses are calculated. The owners association has sued Johnston and Hubris Communications, where Owen is founder and president.

“Hubris is not involved in any way,” Owen says. “That’s a fishing expedition, and they know it.”

Owen and Johnston purchased the floor for $3,000 at a sheriff’s auction. Owen says they expected to have some fees associated with owning the floor.

“We obviously have no problem with that.”

He says the association divides costs of such things as electricity among owners of the building’s seven floors even though he and Johnston now have a separate meter for their floor.

“This makes no sense,” Owen says.

There’s nothing on his floor yet, he says, but he says he was charged $2,000 for one month’s electricity.

Owen says even though his floor isn’t being cleaned since it’s not occupied, he’s being charged for it.

“Which again makes no sense.”

Owen says the bylaws “couldn’t be clearer” that he’s right.

Mofsowitz says when Real Development owned floors at the building, “They took us to court and lost on the same issues.”

Owen says he and Johnston wanted the association to take them to court because it’s “our best chance of relief.”

Two floor owners are in default, and those floors are going to go to auction in August.

“That really complicates this further,” Owen says.

He says since the owners who are in default aren’t paying for any services, all the other owners are being billed for those floors, too.

Owen is interested in buying those floors, and Mofsowitz, who represents a trust that owns the first and second floors, says he may be, too.

The bills are “very, very, very easily divisible by floor,” Owen says.

“They have to go out of their way to … add them all back together when they’re done,” he says of how they’re handled now.

At one point, Owen considered moving Hubris into the Orpheum Office Building. He says the Internet company uses a lot of electricity, and he says he pointed that out to the association and advised against joint billing.

“We would be doing to them what they’re doing to us now, which is ripping us off.”

Mofsowitz says he had to ask the court to “make them … obey the bylaws.”

“It’s causing a hardship on the rest of the floors in the building.”