Guidance includes questions condo unit owners should ask about structural integrity, maintenance, and reserves.
June 30, 2021 – Falls Church, VA – Condominium association residents and volunteer board members around the world understandably have questions about the safety of their own communities and are wondering how to protect their buildings after the tragic collapse of Champlain Tower South in Surfside, FL. Community Associations Institute (CAI), the leading international authority in community association education, governance, and management, is providing information and resources to help concerned residents and board members understand structural integrity, maintenance, and reserves.
Condominium residents should ask the community’s board members and community association manager the following questions:
- Is our building safe?
- What is being done to protect our health, safety, and investment?
- Does our community have a reserve study to plan for the repair and replacement of major components owned by the community? When was this reserve study last updated?
- Does our community have a plan to fund the repair and replacement of major components owned by the community?
- Does our building need an inspection by a professional engineer to evaluate the structural integrity of the building?
- Are critical components in the building such as structure, balconies, stairwells, etc., included in the reserve study?
- Will a special assessment be required to fund the repair and replacement of any components that are not included in the reserve study?
Condominium owners also can take several steps to protect themselves and their investment:
- Know your rights and responsibilities as a homeowner.
- Attend board meetings.
- Read communication from your community.
- Ask questions and participate in your community meetings and events.
- Regularly pay community association assessments.
- Agree to fund reserves for repair and replacement of major components.
Condominium association board members have a fiduciary duty to protect their community. There are several steps board members can take to ensure the community is safe:
- Determine if an inspection is needed.
- Determine if there are any signs of structural concerns that need to be addressed.
- Determine whether your building is safe.
- Conduct or review your reserve plan using best practices.
- Review your reserve funding plan and fund accordingly.
- Have a conversation with your community homeowners about reserve study/plan/schedule and funding.
- Take actions required in the reserve plan.
- Maintain frequent communication with residents/homeowners about these important issues.
- Be transparent with homeowners about how much repairs might cost and whether a special assessment may be necessary.
“CAI is devastated by the tragedy in Surfside, Fla. Members of CAI lived in and worked at Champlain Tower South, and our entire membership is reeling,” says Thomas M. Skiba, CAE, CAI’s chief executive officer. “We have been closely following the news coming out of Surfside, and we continue to have hope in the rescue efforts. The resources and information we share today can help communities take steps to prevent this type of disaster from ever occurring again.”
More than 73 million Americans live in community associations, also known as condominiums, housing cooperatives, and homeowners associations. Reserve study laws for condominiums vary by state.
Reserve studies or reserve schedules are required in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Washington state statutorily encourages associations to have a reserve study performed every three years unless doing so would impose an unreasonable hardship. In most states, there are several points at which homeowners are made aware of reserves, including:
- Initial point of sale/public offering statement where many states have laws requiring the declarant to provide the buyer with information about whether there is funding (reserves) for future repair and replacement of major components.
- Disclosure of funds budgeted for future repair and replacement of major components during resale of a unit to a new owner.
- Annual budget adoption.
For additional resources, visit www.caionline.org/CondoSafety.