This past week we have seen condo safety questions arise in the wake of the Surfside tragedy. Prior to the condo collapse, it was unthinkable that a building in the United States would just fall like that. The surfside tragedy has opened eyes and left many questions.
The first question I received was from agents asking if it could happen here, and if buyers would be worried about that. Here are my thoughts.
We really do not know what happened or what the cause was. Some say there was some payoffs and funny business in the building permit, and inspection process at the beginning. Other theories speculate that the salt water may have rusted the rebar in the concrete which caused the failure. Others have said the pool collapse put pressure on the building.
It is possible that all these things are true, or it was caused by something else entirely. What we do know is there needs to be a thorough investigation so that we can determine if other buildings are in jeopardy.
Are Changes Needed?
Whatever they find could lead to changes in construction practices. I also believe we need to have inspections before building is 40 years old. I am not an engineer and do not have any answers. This may not be a widespread problem because you really do not hear about buildings just falling. However, it did happen once. If it happens once, it could happen again.
We owe it to the lost souls at Surfside to demand answers. If changes are needed, let’s implement them now. If inspections and solutions to existing structures are needed, let’s get going now. I am not saying panic, I am saying we should not kick the can down the road.
Will this affect buyers view towards condo buildings? The truth is I do not know. Logically, we have mid and high-rise buildings everywhere seemingly without issues. I could foresee additional costs associated with owning a hi-rise in the way of inspections and remediation to older structures.
More Legal Scrutiny
Condominium association boards will be under more legal scrutiny to investigate and remedy potential safety concerns. Many associations may not have reserves to cover costly repairs and maintenance items. Imagine a board member’s dilemma voting whether to spend lots of money the association does not have for repair items. That may not be an easy vote among the constituents. On the other hand, imagine voting no and having another tragedy. Condo owners would sue for malfeasance like we have already seen in the wake of this tragedy.
All I can say is it is time for leaders to show up, both at the city/county level and at the association level. Tough decisions will have to be made in the coming years, and residents better be prepared to dole out some money in assessment fees. Do not be hard on your condo board. They may be forced to make some tough decisions because safety is on the line.
The Surfside tragedy will probably increase the cost of ownership of high-rise buildings. It may increase the cost of insurance as well. Insurance companies will probably require more inspections and changes like they have on the single-family residential side.
Cost of Ownership May Increase
Condo living can be a wonderful way of life for many. The cost of ownership may go up for some of the older buildings, but that does not mean people will stop enjoying the condo life.
Let us all say a prayer for those over at Surfside. They deserve it. Let us also take steps to make sure this does not happen again. Be kind to your fellow residents, and when tough decisions arise, do not be too hard on condo board members. Picture yourself in their shoes. Would you want to be the board member who voted to raise assessments? Would you want to be the one who voted to save money and another tragedy happens? They have tough decisions, so let’s try to support them.
God Bless and stay safe!
See last week’s article “We Would Like to Ask You a Favor“