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Could Surfside Happen to You? What Concerned Condo Owners Should Do Now

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In the wake of the shocking collapse of a high-rise condo building in Surfside, Florida, on June 24, condo owners nationwide are probably asking themselves: How safe am I? Is my condo board doing all it should be doing to ensure the structural integrity of my building?

Ninety-eight people died in that collapse, so these are valid concerns — especially considering the age of many structures today. In the Miami region alone, two out of every three condominium buildings are more that 30 years old — the age at which most condominium buildings can no longer delay making critical repairs — according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Nationwide, more than half of all condominium buildings have stood for at least three decades. By one expert’s estimate reported in the July 23, 2021, issue of The Week, about one-third of condominium associations have 30% or less of the money needed to prepare for big-ticket projects.

Most associations are managed by volunteers who need to rely on professional managers and other experts to not only manage the property, but also to make sure there is no deferred maintenance or unaddressed structural/safety issues.

These are issues I’ve confronted head-on, as an attorney who has served as president of my condo association’s board of managers. I have lived in The Towers, a 10-story concrete condominium building in Fargo, North Dakota, since the building was constructed in the late 1970s. The building had 64 concrete balconies weighing 6,000 pounds each. Once the undersides of the balconies were painted, it was just a matter of time before moisture would invade rebar supporting them. As rebar rusts, it expands, cracking the surrounding concrete and degrading its ability to support the........

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