How many times have you heard someone bragging about how cheap their monthly expenses are at their condo? How many times have you heard comments like “We have a great board – the assessments are so cheap.”
It turns out that those boards were not doing you a favor by keeping your assessments low. They were hurting you. Sooner or later, everyone who lives in a condo is going to have to pony up a lot of money to fix the condo, if reserve accounts were no being funded. Roofs are expensive to replace. Painting and concrete restoration are expensive. In Champlain Towers, the unit owners were getting hit with special assessments totaling nearly $100,000.00 per unit. How many owners can come up with that much money in a lump sum?
Our buildings and structures are aging. These types of repairs aren’t just necessary in buildings on the water. Eventually, every building needs these repairs. Your building will not escape this.
So, knowing the inevitable,the question is: how do you prepare for the inevitable? And the answer is simple, you prepare for the inevitable by:
Having a reserve study done by a licensed architect or engineer once every five years, not Harry the guy who drove a cab in NYC for 35 years. Let an expert tell you how long the roof has, the paint, the balconies, the parking areas, the electrical, the plumbing, the elevators and HVAC systems. Let the expert determine a cost of replacement for each and then plug those numbers into the association’s budget and force the owners to pay each month into the condominium’s reserve account. The ability of unit owners to completely waive contributions to a reserve account is absurd, It has to stop or many people will be foreclosed upon when large special assessments become a reality.
MORE BUILDING INSPECTIONS
2.It is insane that a building can be built and then never inspected by a building official for another 40 years. And the 40 year recertification process only applies in Dade and Broward counties. Building officials need to not only worry about the unit owner who is installing kitchen cabinets or doing minor electrical work without a permit, but they also must at least do some visual inspection of the condominiums within their jurisdiction, looking for concrete spalling and/or cracks in support columns or in the foundation. If found, the association must immediately be put on notice to repair same.
3.As you all know, Board members are required to get certified within 90 days of being placed on the board. The problem is that The Division of Condominiums still lets directors get certified by simply signing that stupid self-serving document you get off the internet that says you read your governing documents and promise to enforce them. Many documents have illegal provisions and yet you are promising to enforce the illegal provisions contained in those documents as a condition of certification. Condominium education in order to be certified must be mandatory. As you know, this is something that is near and dear to my heart; having certified approximately 21,000 board members. I have taught them what reserves are, how they need to be calculated, the danger of waiving reserves and the difference between straight line and pooled reserves. Everyone benefits and is safer when board members are certified through an education requirement. You would be surprised at how many boards have no idea that reserves must be calculated and placed in the budget every single year.
I can tell you that all of the above measures are being discussed by The Florida Bar and recommendations on each will be made to The Florida Legislature in the upcoming session. Changes will definitely be made and it’s vital that everyone stay tuned.
What other suggestions do you have in order to prevent future tragedies like the Champlain Towers in Surfside?