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Lessons from the Catastrophe at Surfside Beach

Lessons from the Catastrophe at Surfside Beach
By Russell E. Klemm, Partner & Litigation Manager
The recent catastrophic collapse of the condominium building in Surfside, Florida, was a tremendous shock to all Floridians and, particularly, to condominium residents.
There are also lessons to be learned from this tragedy, which every high-rise condominium association, should be cognizant of. The Champlain Towers were in the midst of a required 40-year structural analysis, when the collapse occurred. The requirement for such a structural evaluation and report is not unique to the area (Dade County). However, the requirements for such a structural inspection and report vary by Counties in Florida. Florida high-rise condominiums that are in areas that do not have a requirement for structural inspections, should, nevertheless, consider having a comprehensive structural inspection and evaluation done if the building is 30-years or even 20-years old. Scheduling an appointment with a qualified Florida structural engineer is worth the cost and all older Florida high-rise condominiums should consider doing so.
As would be expected, Florida civil engineers and structural engineers are in great demand. Condominium associations seeking to retain such an expert may experience a delay in doing so. It is also important to examine the consulting engineer’s credentials, to ensure that only a licensed civil engineer or structural engineer be retained. A list of qualifying engineers may be obtained at the American Society of Engineers’ website at: and at the American Society of Structural Engineers at Another important credential is certification by the ”Structural Engineering Certification Board.”
An additional concern is insurance coverage in the coming year for high-rise condominiums. If you are in a high-rise condominium, you can expect higher premiums or, in some cases, cancellation of your policy and the inability to obtain a new policy. If your association faces this situation, your association should contact the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, which is a Florida not-for-profit corporation and the insurer of last resort in the State of Florida.
One positive note from the tragedy in Surfside will be a heightened awareness of the structural integrity of high-rise condominium buildings and hopefully the willingness of condominium associations to address any structural issues, without unnecessary delay.