After Surfside tragedy, Pittsburgh area condominiums take stock

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From half of a Surfside, Florida condo collapsed at the end of June, homeowners and co-owners associations across the country started looking for their own home. Pittsburgh attorneys say their clients have not expressed concerns for their safety, but have focused on maintenance and management issues.

“Our concerns in Pittsburgh are very different from those in Florida,” said Kim Tague, lawyer at Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky, who represents many associations in the area. “I don’t think any of my clients are really worried about the building collapsing.”

Instead, Tague said board members have dusted off their insurance policies to see what’s covered and who is covered, and to make sure they have the resources to take care of them. their communities.

“The goal is to have enough money set aside that things never go downhill, so that you never reach a point where things aren’t safe,” Tague said. She said associations can hire experts to perform a reserve analysis, to ensure that the organization’s budget and expenses will be able to cover expected repairs.

In 2018, a consultant’s engineering report informed the management of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida. of “major structural damageWhich needed to be “repaired in a timely manner”. This work should have started this year. (Some reports now suggest structural shortcuts can also be involved.)

Bill Labovitz, a lawyer with Pittsburgh-based Anderson & Labovitz, said members of the board of directors of a condominium or homeowners association are expected to act in the long-term best interests of the company. This means you don’t have to give up the box when it comes to tricky issues, like raising fees to pay for expensive repairs.

However, most boards are run by volunteers who don’t have much experience with government, and it’s hard to raise your neighbors’ taxes, Labovitz said.

“People who step into these roles really have to expect that sometimes they won’t be appreciated as much.”

The fear of these personal frictions can “create problems in the sense of what is reported. [with regard to] deferred maintenance ”in Florida, he said.

Tague agreed that these tensions may preclude necessary actions, but added that even if a board wishes to increase fees, it may not be feasible. Special contributions can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, which elderly or low-income residents may not be able to cover. Condominium associations can take out a loan, but a bank must approve it. If a building is too compromised, “what would be your guarantee? Tague asked. “Is your condo not healthy?” “

And Tague said by law, condominium and homeowner associations are essentially small towns on their own.

“When you’re a condo association, it’s an elected group of volunteers, sometimes it’s just three people… and they run a multi-million dollar real estate company with no employees. “

Tague said she didn’t expect to see the laws that allow condominiums to change. Instead, she thinks people will just be more reluctant to sit on the board.


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