Tips for condo owners in wake of deadly Surfside, Florida collapse

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Friday, July 2, 2021
Tips for condo owners in wake of deadly Florida collapse
Here's what condo owners should know about their association boards in the wake of the deadly collapse in Florida.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Days before the fatal building collapse in Surfside, Florida, unit owners were set to start making payments towards $15 million dollars in major repairs.

Those repairs were recommended nearly three years ago, bringing up many questions about building safety and the rights of residents.

July 1 was the first deadline for owners of the Champlain Towers South to start paying to fix their condo.

Repair bills started at $80,000 for a one-bedroom unit. Of course, before repairs could begin, the condo collapsed.

"It's a horrible tragedy, and the lesson that we're trying to learn right now is how to prevent it from happening in all of our homes and all of our buildings," said real estate lawyer Gary Krimstock of Fineman Krekstein & Harris.

Authorities announced the recovery of two more bodies from the condo collapse site, including the 7-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter.

The first line of defense lies with the association board, which is made up of volunteers. Krimstock says they are required to protect residents.

"Repairs when necessary, and replacements when necessary, particularly based upon expert information," he said. "In Philadelphia, for example, we have a facade inspection ordinance that was passed several years ago."

It requires an inspection and certification by a professional engineer every five years. If a repair is required, how to pay for it also falls on the board to figure out.

"And it's similar in a way to any democratic government or organization," he said. "The unit owners have to fund the budget that's adopted by the board.

Tom Van Essen, the fire commissioner in charge during the 9/11 attacks, shares his thoughts on the rescue efforts at the Florida condo collapse site.

Krimstock says it is imperative that condo owners exercise their rights and responsibilities.

"They should attend meetings, they should ask questions of their board, they should be prepared if reports have been issued," he said.

Both condo owners and board members should put aside emergency funds.

If you feel the board is not doing enough, you can ask for a special meeting to be called, board members to be removed, or go to court and seek an injunction to require the board to take certain actions.

If you believe a code violation isn't being addressed, let your city or township know. It can issue citations to press for the work to get done.