“Buildings just don’t fall down”, said Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett. He’s right, they don’t, which may lead to many other associations questioning their buildings’ structural safety and integrity. While it’s unclear what happened in Surfside, this tragic event underscores the necessity for associations serving multi-story buildings to be proactive and look at properties and their certifications to ensure this type of situation does not happen again.
In both Broward and Miami-Dade counties, there is a 40-year recertification process for real estate properties that are over 40 years old. Miami-Dade has had this process in place since the mid 1970’s, and Broward followed suit in 2005. The program calls for structural and electrical inspections for buildings 40 years old or older and every ten years thereafter. There are some exemptions depending on square footage, occupancy amount, farming buildings, as well as buildings on Indian Reservations. While Palm Beach county does not have the same requirements for older buildings, it is highly recommended that buildings 40 years and older take these same precautions and follow these protocols.
Champlain Towers was built in 1981, making it a 40-year old building this year. Units in the building are typically listed between $600,000 and $710,000. This was a luxury condo building with many amenities and luxurious features. Surfside Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer said the building was beginning its 40-year recertification process and the roof was being redone. It is unknown if the construction activity contributed to the collapse.
40 years is a long time for a building to be around, especially when in close proximity to the ocean, and given the constant and evolving changes in innovations and technology. The recertification process is no small task and can be complicated, involving professional engineers, architects, contractors, and legal counsel. It can often take as long as 3-5 years to obtain a complete recertification. As such, we routinely recommend that our clients to obtain an inspection and begin the recertification process well in advance of the 40-year deadline in Miami-Dade and Broward. As many condominium buildings in Palm Beach County are approaching this mark, regardless of the lack of legal requirement to do so, we encourage associations in Palm Beach (and other) counties to ensure the same safety and inspection protocols and practices are put in place.
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