After the tragic collapse of Champlain Tower South Condominium Association in Surfside, Fla., condominium association residents have questions about the safety of their own communities and are wondering how to protect their buildings. As the leading authority in community association education, governance, and management, CAI is providing information and resources regarding structural integrity, maintenance, and reserve funds.
Condominium residents should ask the community’s board members and community association manager the following questions:
- Is our building safe?
- What is being done to protect our health, safety, and investment?
- Does our community have a reserve study to plan for the repair and replacement of major components owned by the community? When was this reserve study last updated?
- Does our community have a plan to fund the repair and replacement of major components owned by the community?
- Does our building need an inspection by a professional engineer to evaluate the structural integrity of the building?
- Are critical components in the building such as structure, balconies, stairwells, etc., included in the reserve study?
- Will a special assessment be required to fund the repair and replacement of any components that are not included in the reserve study?
Condominium owners also can take several steps to protect themselves and their investment:
- Know your rights and responsibilities as a homeowner.
- Attend board meetings.
- Read communication from your community.
- Ask questions and participate in your community meetings and events.
- Regularly pay community association assessments.
- Agree to fund reserves for repair and replacement of major components.
Condominium association board members have a fiduciary duty to protect their community. There are several steps board members can take to ensure the community is safe:
- Determine if an inspection is needed.
- Determine if there are any signs of structural concerns that need to be addressed.
- Determine whether your building is safe.
- Conduct or review your reserve plan using best practices.
- Review your reserve funding plan and fund accordingly.
- Have a conversation with your community homeowners about reserve study/plan/schedule and funding.
- Take actions required in the reserve plan.
- Maintain frequent communication with residents/homeowners about these important issues.
- Be transparent with homeowners about how much repairs might cost and whether a special assessment may be necessary.
Reserve studies or reserve schedules are required in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Washington state statutorily encourages associations to have a reserve study performed every three years unless doing so would impose an unreasonable hardship. In most states, there are several points at which homeowners are made aware of reserves, including:
- Initial point of sale/public offering statement where many states have laws requiring the declarant to provide the buyer with information about whether there is funding (reserves) for future repair and replacement of major components.
- Disclosure of funds budgeted for future repair and replacement of major components during resale of a unit to a new owner.
- Annual budget adoption.
For additional resources, visit www.caionline.org/CondoSafety.
I also believe Community Management companies and their managers hold responsibility to advise Boards of their responsibilities and best practices regarding new building inspections with regards to construction defects, ongoing maintenance issues and be sure to include in the Board meeting minutes instances of Boards voting against items that are considered industry best practices. If all the stakeholders do what they are supposed to do, such tragedies can be avoided in the future.