Miami Building Collapse Sows Fear Among City’s Condo Owners
(Bloomberg) -- The building collapse in Surfside, Florida, has frayed nerves in the city as condo dwellers across the Miami area pore over association documents and cast anxious looks at support columns in their own parking garages.
“Everybody is obviously very shocked and concerned,” Tamara Hannah, a real estate agent and attorney, said from her condo unit in Miami Beach. “The takeaway is that condo associations really need to be much more careful about managing issues.”
Rescue workers continued to dig through the rubble for possible survivors on Tuesday after the Champlain Towers South cratered last week, leaving at least 11 people dead and 150 still missing.
While it likely will be months before a cause is determined, the tragedy has raised questions about what more could’ve been done. Reports disclosed in recent days showed that much-needed repairs were delayed for several years on the building, which was about four decades old.
“People are concerned about high rises and buildings on the beach,” Hannah said. “It really points out again how important it is to buy into a building that is a good building, meaning it was well planned with a good developer.”
Hannah, who purchased her unit 17 years ago from a developer and has also served on and counseled condo associations, cautions buyers.
“In an older building, it’s helpful to look at the minutes to see what’s being discussed,” she said. “If you were buying into that building and you got the minutes for the last couple of years, you would have seen the discussion about this million-dollar special assessment dealing with all of these structural issues.”
President Joe Biden will visit Surfside on Thursday, announced Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. She added that audits of older buildings across the county were continuing, and said that she would be meeting with experts including those in engineering and geology.
“They will advise me on issues related to building construction, chain of custody and requirements for reporting, condominium regulations and more so that my staff and I can develop a set of recommendation for changes,” she said Tuesday at a news conference.
Florida state Senator Jason Pizzo said state and county governments need to closely review certification and condo association rules in a state with 4.6 million condo units.
Condo association board members “operate with incredible autonomy and very little duty outside of a general fiduciary obligation,” he said in an interview Monday near the site of the June 24 collapse.
Pizzo, a Democrat, said building codes were changed after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and that residents of newer condos and even well-maintained older ones had little to worry about. But certain construction performed in time frames should be reviewed.
“There was a period of time in Miami where it was loosey-goosey and inspections were not scrutinizing or scrupulous,” he said.
Levine Cava, the Miami-Dade mayor, said Monday in an interview that the collapse likely would lead to changes to the state’s condominium laws.
“There are a lot of concerns about that kind of stewardship and where is the accountability,” she said. “We’re most agile at the local level. We can pass legislation most quickly, but a lot of things are pre-empted by the state.”
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