Contributed by Michael Cuglietta

When the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla., partially collapsed three years ago this month, Daniel Gonzalez knew he had work to do at The Admiral’s Walk, the 18-story condominium in Boca Raton where he has served as manager since 2009.  

Gonzalez called Howard Somers, the condominium’s board president, to develop a plan to commission a structural inspection on their nearly 50-year-old building. They were two months ahead of a city ordinance that would mandate such inspections and nearly a year ahead of landmark Florida legislation that imposed a similar directive on aging buildings across the state. Admiral’s Walk received recertification in December 2023, the first condominium building in the city to achieve the status.  

The quick thinking and proactive response by the leadership of The Admiral’s Walk demonstrates how prioritizing and keeping up with ongoing structural maintenance can make complying with a state directive to codify inspection and reserve requirements less painful and expensive. In 2022, the Florida legislature passed bipartisan legislation requiring condominiums and cooperatives statewide to commission milestone inspections beginning at 25 years of age. The deadline for communities to complete inspections is January 2025.  

“For the associations that are on top of everything, recertification is no big deal. The people who hid their head in the sand, they’re really just in a very poor position,” says Lisa Magill, an attorney with Kaye, Bender, Rembaum in Pompano Beach, Fla., and a fellow in CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers. 

The Admiral’s Walk is located just across the street from the beach. The building’s exterior is made of concrete. When salt and moisture from the ocean penetrate the concrete, corrosion occurs. If nothing is done to repair the compromised steel, corrosion can spread rapidly.  

By starting early, Gonzalez and Somers engaged an engineer to complete a milestone inspection while supply and demand were still balanced. The inspection found hundreds of corroded spots, and they had to reinforce the coolant tower on the roof. The final cost of repairs came in at $1.2 million or roughly $15,000 out of each homeowner’s pocket.  

Gonzalez advises managers and boards facing the recertification process to be hypervigilant about structural maintenance and cautions building managers to prepare owners for the reality that initial repair assessments are merely estimates. Once the work begins, the bill can escalate rapidly.

Gonzalez broke his structural reserve funds into three parts. In 2023, the owners paid the first installment of $28,000. In 2024, they will be responsible for the second installment. Reserves will be fully funded after one final payment in 2025. If any structural repairs are called for, the money will be there.

Several states have considered bills to Florida’s, and some have enacted laws to codify building safety measures. In January, New Jersey became the latest state to enact a comprehensive condominium safety bill. 

Michael Cuglietta is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Fla.

>>Read more about The Admiral’s Walk in “An Ounce of Prevention” from Common Ground May/June 2024. Access CAI’s condominium safety resources, information, and updates.

Photo caption: Workers at The Admiral’s Walk in Boca Raton, Fla., drilled into concrete to repair balconies.

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