Sharper Management


Reflecting on the Champlain Towers Tragedy

It’s not unlikely that if you live in a condominium building, seeds of doubt on its structural integrity have been planted in the wake of the tragic collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, FL earlier this summer. While the investigation is ongoing, the collapse has brought many questions to the minds of those in condo buildings. As a management company, we have heard a number of them. What caused the collapse? Could it have been prevented? What can be done going forward? In the State of Minnesota, we do have a few safeguards that help in the continual monitoring of the structural integrity of buildings. Most cities have annual permits that must be obtained, including verifying structural integrity of condo buildings. The City of Minneapolis, for example, requires an annual permit for the operation of an underground parking garage. This annual permit requires a thorough inspection by the City and an every-other-year requirement for a structural engineer to submit a written report of inspection. Another safeguard Minnesota has is the state statue (515B or “MCIOA”) requirement for replacement reserves. While the statute doesn’t require a “reserve study,” the requirements for identifying components, evaluating their useful life, and adequately funding for their replacement certainly equates to having a reserve study done. Because of these statutory requirements, most condo buildings have a reserve study done, and those are generally conducted by engineers. And, by statute, they need to be updated and re-evaluated (which typically requires a re-inspection) every three years. While none of these measures create certainty that such an event as the Surfside tragedy will not happen here, we can take comfort in what the state of Minnesota and various City ordinances require. Finally, it is important to note that the Community Association Institute, a national organization that is the recognized body of education, advocacy, and governance for associations across the country, has recently introduced recommendations on safety requirements and measures in light of the Surfside tragedy. The goal of this comprehensive set of recommendations is for each Chapter of CAI (in which Minnesota does have a Chapter) to consider the recommendations and work with law makers to, perhaps, introduce legislation at the state level. For Minnesota, that would mean possible amendments to the current 515B that governs most associations and all condo associations. Again, at this point, these are just recommendations. This will be an evolving storyline and we will keep you up to date, especially if any requirements that affect condominium structural integrity come to fruition in the wake of the Champlain Towers South collapse.