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The deadly collapse of Miami buildings sheds light on Florida condo politics – News


The rows of condos and hotels along Collins Avenue with views of the Atlantic Ocean are now divided into piles of rubble.

Two weeks after the collapse of Champlain Towers South, a 136-unit, 12-story apartment in the suburbs of Miami on Surfside, South Florida officials this week. Will be canceled Search for survivors.

Paramedics have killed at least 79 people as of Friday night, and focused on recovering the bodies of the victims of the collapse, with an additional 61 dead “potentially unexplained.” ..

Investigations into the cause of the collapse have begun, but investigators say it’s too early to know how long it will take, not to mention the final answer.

But what is clear is that Chamber Towers South had to undergo millions of dollars worth of repairs as part of a 40-year “recertification.” This is an established process in Miami-Dade and Broward County that ensures that the building remains safe for decades. Abuse from the sun, sea and salt in Florida.

These repairs are organized by the board of directors of the Condominium Management Companies Association, a legal entity with volunteer owners elected by other residents, and the structure and common areas of the building consisting of privately owned apartments. Is maintained.

Repairs were postponed due to cost controversy. This is before the board votes in April to fund through a “special assessment”, the fees charged for certain projects, and the horrifying prospects of many condo owners who have to give up sharing. It has risen from $ 9 million to $ 15 million.

Have similarities with Inconvenient bill Some apartment owners are obliged to pay when the landlord upgrades Cladding In their building in response to the deadly Glenfell fire in London four years ago.

Women add flowers to a monument featuring photos of people lost in the Champlan Towers South collapse © Giorgia Viera / AFP via Getty Images

Less than one-third of the American Condo Association saves enough money for expensive repairs such as structural work and roof replacement, experts say delays and opinions not only in Florida but throughout the United States. It states that discrepancies are common.

“Every condominium is like a small micro-society,” said Carolina Sznajderman Sheir, a partner at Eisinger Law, which specializes in condominium law.

Sheer said 40 years of recertification may sound like a “very important” process, but it often leads to conflicts among residents. “That’s why it’s difficult. We’re talking about a monumental project. We’re talking about millions of dollars in restoration.”

“Boards that impose assessments are not popular boards,” she added. “People don’t want to pay huge assessments … And politics, whether it’s national or small, small committees.”

Marta Reeves is well aware of how the process gets into trouble. Her family has lived in Brickell’s Imperial, a 161 unit building located about 12 miles southwest of Champlain Towers South, for over 30 years. Built along Biscayne Bay in 1983, its unique “red wall” can be seen in the opening credits of the 1980s television show Miami Vice.

The imperial situation emphasizes that discussions about how to pay for repairs can lead to hostility. Owners with different incomes and different philosophies about the amount of maintenance required aim at each other via Facebook and email.

Reeves won a seat on the board of directors of the Imperial Condominium in 2010 and was part of a coordinated slate of executives elected in March 2018. Five new board members have passed a $ 1 million special assessment for repairing roofs, cooling towers and elevators. The building lacked enough reserves to pay for the work.

The board then decided to replace 944 windows along the famous red wall. According to an engineer’s report over 10 years ago, we are nearing the end of our useful life. The 40-year certification of buildings due in 2023 required waterproof “envelopes,” but new building codes should be able to withstand the effects of hurricanes where glass hits the Florida coastline. I specified.

As a result, the board passed a $ 9 million assessment. This will cost homeowners $ 45,000 to $ 62,000 per home. Despite securing funds to help homeowners bear the costs, Reeves and her four fellow directors lost bids for reelection in February 2020.

The current and former board of directors of the Imperial Condo disagrees with the maintenance of 944 windows along the “red wall” that can be seen in the opening credits of the 1980s television show “Miami Vice” © Claire Bushey

“When Piper comes after years of not fixing things in a timely manner, it’s not a popular job,” Reeves said. “That’s why we voted.”

Reeves was frustrated when the new board felt less organized insight than before and tried to work on the repair. “I’m not saying they haven’t fixed it,” she said. “They put a band-aid on it.”

Risig Richa, a member of Imperial’s current board of directors, rejected such a proposal. In an email statement, she said the board “mainly aimed at complying with the 40-year recertification since taking office.”

The board also said it was “actively in contact” with the owners during the process, looking for “the best structural and construction professionals and professionals at a considerable expense”.

Florida has more than 1.5 million condos than any other state. State law requires associations to schedule payments for major repairs, but there are loopholes. Homeowners can vote to waive their reserve payments. Only six states need condos to maintain “appropriate” reserves without giving homeowners the option to waive their requirements.

Attorney Sheir pointed out that many Florida condo owners are retirees and therefore have little interest in maintaining their assets over the long term. She added that they want to keep their monthly association fees as low as possible.

“People just don’t want to pay higher assessments,” she said. “They want to put money in their pockets more than anyone else.”

The inability to secure funds to improve capital is a problem across the United States, especially in Florida, where the climate imposes severe sacrifices on buildings. Builders use concrete to protect the weight of the material from hurricanes, but over time UV and salt will corrode the material, according to Sinisa Kolar, vice president of engineering and construction consulting firm Falcon Group. Become.

The rest of the condo was demolished on July 4th © Giorgio Viera / AFP via Getty Images

Some local politicians have suggested that Florida should shorten the recertification process from 40 to 20 years. “Make everyone aware of the work that is absolutely necessary,” Corral said.

However, Association Reserves CEO Robert Nordlund is skeptical about whether the law can force condo owners to budget for future repairs.

He said insurance companies and mortgage lenders could make a difference when considering the financial position of the Condominium Association when setting premiums and taking out loans. Lenders generally only require a 10 percent funded condo association reserve before they are willing to give the buyer a mortgage.

“The risk factors are there and they are very obvious,” he said. “I don’t know why they’re missing out on those clues … Is it time to start learning and refining underwriting standards?”

The surfside disaster struck imperial inhabitants, similar to condominium buildings throughout Miami.

An emergency support pillar was installed in the parking lot of the building last week, but Richa said that the structural engineer hired by the Condominium Management Companies said, “Unusually, it matches a building in a similar location of the same age group. No repairs or conditions have been identified. ” Reeves agrees with the current board that the blocks of the apartment are structurally sound.

Still, at least one resident didn’t seem nervous this week. He parked his car in the garage and told Reeves that he had written a letter on the board to express his concerns. She told him to keep writing: tragedy sometimes makes a difference.

“It’s a very high cost,” he replied.

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