In the wake of the tragic collapse of the Champlain Towers in Surfside, Florida, last month, many Condominium Associations are questioning whether deferring maintenance on their property is still a safe option.
According to media reports, the estimated cost to repair the Champlain South premises totaled $15 million. However, the condo had only $800,000 in reserves for such contingencies. Unit owners were faced with individual special assessments between $80,000 and $200,000 each. After facing owner pressure, the board refused to levy these assessments and further deferred essential maintenance, thus contributing to the resulting disaster.
Responsible members of condo boards need to take immediate steps to certify that required repairs and maintenance of common areas and facilities are conducted timely and competently. Members must also engage appropriate experts in evaluating their building’s structural integrity, functionality and anticipated longevity. It’s not an exaggeration to say these preventive measures can save lives.
The board must make sure that regularly scheduled assessments are sufficient to support proper repairs and maintenance, and that sufficient reserves are available to pay for major repairs or replacements. It is certainly better to build adequate reserves as a part of regular assessments than to have to impose a single large special assessment to address emergencies.
Board members should confirm that the condo association carry hefty errors and omissions policies which will protect them from claims of owners or others. Both the new and old Board members and officers of Champlain Towers South could be named as defendants in multiple lawsuits inevitably filed on behalf of the victims, including claims for wrongful death, personal injury and property damage.
The collapse of the Champlain Towers will continue to be studied and written about. There will no doubt be an impact of this tragedy on the whole concept of condo ownership and on the market for these properties. Only through a proactive approach will tragedies such as this be avoided in the future.
Sarah Melendez is an associate attorney at Tressler LLP in Chicago and member of the HOA Practice Group. Sarah advises her clients on litigation strategies, skillfully representing them through all phases of litigation. Sarah assists her condominium and HOA clients on a wide range of general corporate issues, including the creation and amendments of governing documents, daily operations, and collection work. Sarah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and is able to help evaluate your business records, and otherwise assist you.