Surfside Condo Disaster

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“Hi, It’s Danny Karon, your Lovable Lawyer here with your quick shot of legal wellness. Today is going to be kind of a sad one as we’re going to talk about the Surfside Condo collapse, a horrible disaster. Perhaps saddest of all is that it didn’t have to happen. The problems didn’t have to get to the point that they did but as it concerns you, the question is how to avoid the same thing from happening again. We’re going to talk a bit about things you can do to make sure that you don’t suffer the same horrible fate.

The first question is what your legal rights are as a condo owner. What can and can’t you do? It’s different than living in a house, of course. If you have a crumbling foundation while you’re living in your house, you just call up an engineer, an architect, or a water sealing company and you get it fixed. You can’t do that in a condo. These are common areas.

The declaration, the contract you sign with the property when you buy your unit, lays out all of your rights, the things you’re owed, and all of your obligations. As it concerns things you are owned, one of them is from the condo association and the board that runs the condo association. They should provide a safe and habitable condominium common space that’s not going to fall down. The lights should work, the elevators should work, and if it’s 60 stories, there should be lights on the top so airplanes don’t hit it, the sprinkler systems should work, etc.

What do you do if you’re in the basement putting some stuff into storage and you see exposed rebar or standing water and you’re concerned that nobody knows about it or has done anything about it? You go to the next board meeting and you say something. You can ask when the last reserve study was conducted and when the last time an engineer or an architect has come through and assessed the building for safety.

If the answers are satisfactory to you, that’s great. If they are going to fix the problems or the fixes are already underway, that’s also great. But if they’re not, what can you do as a condo owner when you’re just not getting anywhere and you think you’re living in an unsafe condition?

Well, you can go to court if you’ve got a decent record compiled. For example, if you’ve had a report done or maybe had an engineer or architect take a look. If you express those concerns to the board, they fall on deaf ears, and you believe that the board is in violation of your declaration and of state or local statute or ordinance, you can go to court. You can sue for:

  • A breach of contract – stating that the building is not doing what it should under the declaration
  • An injunction – an order where you ask the court to require the building to do something
  • Declaratory relief – where you ask for an order from the court to tell the condo board they are in violation of the declaration with the hope that it sparks them to take action

What you don’t want to do if you think you’ve got a real problem on your hands is nothing. It’s all about being proactive, taking care of yourself and your family, and not letting things fall by the wayside hoping that it’s not a problem or that someone else has dealt with it. God forbid any of us should be subject to another Surfside situation. That’s today’s shot of legal wellness for you. If you want to learn more, please subscribe. It’s what allows me to keep making these free videos for you to help raise awareness, raise legal aptitude, and keep you healthy and safe.”

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