After the collapse of Champlain South in Surfside and as proof of problems the condo suffered prior to the tragedy comes to light, other condo owners are sharing their concerns, sending us images of buildings in desperate need of repairs. And some are angry because those repairs have not been made. Do they have any legal options? Let’s bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser for the answers.
This is what many owners see from their condo balcony. And this is what many owners see in their condo garage.
Maggie Melchor: “I’m very afraid. Very. Sometimes I can’t even sleep because I think it’s going to fall the building.”
In Maggie’s 50-year-old Hollywood building, you can see cracks in the concrete pillars helping support the building. Rusty rebar is common.
Just like at Champlain South, a pool is above the garage.
And Maggie says because of leaks, the concrete below is constantly wet.
Maggie Melchor: “And there’s pieces all over the place. You can’t even imagine when it’s going to fall one in your car.”
It’s becoming clear it’s not an uncommon sight in South Florida.
Help Me Howard viewers are sending in pictures showing their buildings garages.
Look at this Aventura condo garage with cracked support columns and look at what is being used to help hold up the support beams. Frightening to owners.
Maggie Melchor: “I care about the life. Not my life because I’m very old already, but I care about everybody’s life that are here in this building.”
Let’s begin, Howard, what should a condo owner do when they see stuff like that?
Howard Finkelstein: “First, get proof, like pictures. Get it to your management company, take it to the condo board, and notify the city building department and keep copies of all your correspondence.”
Back at Maggie’s building, the Sea Air Towers board did hire an engineering firm to evaluate their property. They used words like “high priority” in a 2020 report to emphasize the urgency to repair their 50-year-old structure.
Judy Wilkerson: “Some very significant problems in the concrete and in the steel in the garage.”
Judy Wilkerson is on the condo board, but why didn’t she get her wish and see the $13 million in repairs started?
Judy Wilkerson: “There are, as in many condominiums, political challenges and some in-house discussions.”
In other words, instead of hitting owners with a monster special assessment for all the repairs, the board chose to target the garage work right now.
But that’s not enough, says Judy.
So, Howard, what can a condo owner do if they are not satisfied with the board’s actions?
Howard Finkelstein: “If the board refuses to act, you can file a lawsuit to ask a judge to order them to fix the building. If they still refuse, the judge can remove the board and appoint a receiver to make the repairs.”
It seems like we are going to see many people hit with special assessments. What happens to condo owners who cannot afford it in a lump sum or spread out over years?
Howard Finkelstein: “They either have to borrow the money or face the board foreclosing on them and selling the property to cover the assessment. It’s a cold act, but you can’t let a building fall apart because some owners don’t have the money to pay their share to repair it.”
Judy has now sent a memo to every owner at the Sea Air Tower condo explaining the dangers and warning “…necessary repairs classified as critical for ‘life safety’ have been set aside.”
Bottom line, Judy says she wants everyone to realize they have to fix their property immediately.
Judy Wilkerson: “I know there are several owners who are worried. I mean, how can you not worry after seeing this horrible, horrible tragedy at Champlain South?”
For years, associations ignored problems or did minor repairs because people didn’t think a building could just collapse. We all know better now.
The special assessments will force some owners out, but repairs are not an option. They are a necessity.
If we can help you with a problem, minor or major, get in touch with us. We would love to be there for you.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com
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