The global condo and high-rise apartment community has been reeling since the catastrophic collapse of a part of the Champlain Towers building in Surfside, Florida, in June 2021. Officials and professionals from all over the world have been discussing and debating what led to this tragic loss of life and property and what can be done to prevent a future such occurrence.
Local website ROI-NJ.com spoke to two prominent co-op and condo attorneys in New Jersey, who gave their own assessments as to how the Surfside collapse might impact legislation and regulations in their state.
Michael Willner, a partner at Roseland-based Curcio Mirzaian Sirot LLC, emphasized boards’ responsibilities in ensuring the structural integrity of the structures in their communities. “The best general advice that I can give is, if you hire an engineer and he or she comes in and does a survey, you want to make sure you get a report and actually listen to what they say,” Willner says. “Boards are responsible for acting reasonably in all circumstances. So, if a problem has been identified, you’d be best served to investigate that problem and make sure it’s not a potentially severe one.”
A proactive board that listens to its experts will have an easier time addressing any issues, however or wherever they arise. “It’s not going to be the same conditions as in Florida,” continues Willner, “but you can deal with corrosive issues both in New York and New Jersey. In Florida, it appears there might have been a pool and crawl space below it where water was infiltrating. In every building with a pool, that could be a potential source of an issue.”
And if the collapse itself hasn’t spurred more associations to act swiftly on professional recommendations about the upkeep of their buildings, Willner and others are predicting that rules and laws about inspections and repairs will force the issue. “A lot of municipalities are strengthening their requirements for inspections by the building department,” he says. “In Jersey City in particular, Mayor Steven Fulop is set to pass a new set of guidelines, including inspections every 10 years of structures above a certain height.”