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Case Study: Avoiding Unexpected Maintenance Costs and City Violations in a Post-Champlain Towers World

Posted by Jane F. Bolin, Esq. | Jul 12, 2023 | 0 Comments

Here's how PeytonBolin helped an association after a resident pointed out obviously deteriorated rebar on concrete balconies.

Key takeaways:

  • A condo association was dealing with deteriorated rebar on its concrete balconies.
  • This created insurance and other problems, and residents had to vacate their balconies.
  • The association didn't have enough reserve funding for the project.
  • The city wanted the issue addressed within 30 days, which was a tight timeline once it was clear all the balconies needed work.
  • PeytonBolin stepped in to outline the project's plans, work with the city and special magistrate on progress checks, and give the association more time while helping them avoid fines and penalties.

All buildings experience wear and tear, but these issues can sometimes pose safety risks and lead to city violations. The devastating Champlain Towers incident in Miami is an example of an extreme case, but many condo associations are still dealing with deteriorating buildings today. This can lead to fines and penalties from the city, headaches for owners, high maintenance costs, and even the need for special assessments to cover the repair costs — not to mention the structural deterioration to the building. 

It's important for condo and homeowners' associations to stay on top of building maintenance and keep cash reserves for such unexpected expenses.

One condo association was recently dealing with violations after a tenant noticed rebar deterioration on their building's concrete balconies. The association then faced both a short timeline to address the problem and the possibility of financial penalties, but PeytonBolin was able to step in. The firm worked with the city and special magistrate to give the association more time, outline plans for the project to  avoid fines, and come up with a plan for how they would keep the city informed of their progress. 

Here's how the issue started, who was involved, and how our law firm supported the condo association along the way.

How the issue came to light

The association first learned of the building's deteriorated rebar and concrete balconies because of a violation report from a building inspector, who was notified about the issue by a building tenant. The tenant noticed exposed rebar, and the inspector issued a violation report after visually inspecting the balcony. The association hired an engineer for a more detailed investigation. 

After the additional inspection, the engineer confirmed that there was deterioration in the balcony and recommended shoring and restoration. The building department then required additional engineer investigations for the rest of the building's balconies, and the city mandated that the balconies be closed for safety reasons until more information was uncovered.

All balconies and the entire building have now been recommended for complete concrete restoration. The city and building inspector approved the project, and the building is in the process of a complete concrete restoration. 

Impact on condo owners, the building, and the association

Deteriorating condo buildings impact everyone involved. Unfortunately, in this case, the association didn't have enough funds in their reserves for this kind of work. They had to issue a special assessment to fund the project, which was quite sudden for residents. Potential buyers, condo owners, and the association have all been impacted.

Owners had to vacate their balconies for safety reasons, which is a huge inconvenience, on top of dealing with the stressful assessment. The building's units aren't as marketable right now, so the market value is suffering. Potential condo buyers have to deal with title insurance issues because of the safety violations against the association. And the association is also suffering from a hit to its reputation and unit value.

How PeytonBolin helped the association avoid fines and penalties

The city initially said that the association had to address the structural deterioration in the balconies within 30 days from when the engineer uncovered the problem. That timeframe became unrealistic once the concrete restoration project turned into something major, however, so PeytonBolin stepped in to work with the building inspector and special magistrate. 

  • Our firm presented compelling evidence that showcased the progress already made by the association in getting the restoration project initiated. 
  • We outlined how the association was working with a project management firm, which had already started putting together bid packages for contractors to take on the work based on the engineers' findings and scope for the project. 
  • We provided a detailed plan of action for addressing the violation, and committed to providing regular updates to the building inspector and special magistrate throughout progress. 

Fortunately, the special magistrate agreed that the restoration could be completed in a more realistic timeframe, as determined by the engineer, and recognized the association's genuine efforts to comply. There have been no fines imposed thus far, and the association won't have any moving forward so long as they maintain positive progress and keep the city and the special magistrate well-informed.

PeytonBolin's diligent work with the association in developing an action plan and guiding them in implementation helped them avoid significant fines and penalties that would have hindered progress on the project, creating further issues. The project now has momentum behind it, so everything can adhere to the agreed-upon timelines and requirements to keep the city and special magistrate informed.

Challenges with structural deterioration and funding

The association's problem highlights a significant challenge for many of these communities: Without enough funds in reserves to cover unexpected maintenance, the pressure is on members through special assessments. This is inconvenient for condo owners, and some have continued to put up resistance and refused to pay on time.

This may lead to too few funds being available for the project, so there is a risk of facing fines and penalties from the city if the project can't move forward on time or as planned.

Conclusion and lessons learned

PeytonBolin was able to help the association get more time for the project by outlining their plans and how they're working closely with the engineer and project management company to get the issues addressed as soon as possible. Even with the challenges of deteriorating rebar, high maintenance costs, and city violations, our law firm helped the association in avoiding fines and penalties and staying in communication with the city and special magistrate. 

If your association is dealing with structural deterioration, we're here to help. PeytonBolin understands city requirements and how best to support our clients when faced with building problems and other issues with large projects. 

Contact our experienced legal team today to talk to us about your case.

About the Author

Jane F. Bolin, Esq.

Founding Member, Managing Partner


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