On June 24, 2021, Champlain Towers South, a 12-floor condominium building in Surfside, Florida, suddenly collapsed killing 98 people. The collapse captured the nation's attention because it was so sudden and deadly. Things like this are not supposed to happen.
Perfect Storm. A number of factors contributed to the tragedy. Among them were construction defects, failure by the boards to properly fund the reserves, deferred maintenance, and a refusal by a succession of boards to impose special assessments to make needed repairs.
Resignations. In 2019, five members of the seven-member condo board resigned in frustration over endless debate concerning the scope of work and its cost. They had been issued dire warnings, but members balked at paying the estimated $15 million to make repairs.
In the president's letter of resignation, she pointed out that the prior president was undermined repeatedly and couldn't get anything done. The sniping continued against the new president. She complained of "ego battles, undermining the roles of fellow board members, circulation of gossip and mistruths."
Consequences. Rogue directors who blocked repairs precipitated deadly consequences, lawsuits, and a costly settlement of $1.2 billion.
Board Negligence. Negligent boards and deferred maintenance are not unique to Champlain Towers. Boards who defer maintenance inevitably lead to large special assessments on members. Prior to the collapse of Champlain Towers, the Foundation for Commuity Association Research surveyed associations across the nation about deferred maintenance. The majority of issues reported by those who responded to our survey were water intrusion in windows and siding, deteriorating balconies, failing plumbing, electrical problems, and failing roofs. The study resulted in the publication of of "Breaking Point: Examining Aging Infrastructure in Community Associations."
Maintenance and Safety. For projects older than ten years, boards must fulfill their primary duties — maintenance of the common areas and ensuring sufficient funds are available to do so. That means properly funding their reserves and then spending those monies to keep building components in good condition. When directors receive a report warning of imminent harm, they should move quickly with an emergency special assessment, if needed, to address the danger.
Construction Defects. If a condominium project is less than ten years old, it is important for boards to talk to legal counsel to determine if defects exist. They should have the property inspected and a report prepared, and then take appropriate action.
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.