SURFSIDE, Fla. – A 15 page letter from the president of the condominium association at Champlain Towers South warned owners back in April that parts of the building were deteriorating faster than previously thought.
The “dear neighbors” letter sent on April 9, 2021, details the steps the association was preparing to take following a 2018 inspection that identified issues with concrete and rebar. It explains that the concrete deterioration was accelerating and warned that damage could begin to multiply exponentially.
The note also explains to owners why a renovation that was first estimated at $9 million had jumped to $16 million in three years’ time.
Champlain Towers South Board President Jean Wodnicki writes:
“… the observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse since the initial inspection. When you can visually see the concrete spalling, that means that the rebar holding it together is rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface. Please note that the original scope of work in the 2018 report has expanded. The concrete deterioration is accelerating.”
Wodnicki told owners that the original $9 million estimation for the scope of work had increased to a project estimate of more than $16.2 million ($16,249,095.40) of which $707,000 that owners had in their reserves. The owners were notified that more than $15.5 million dollars was needed to complete the repairs, which would be collected over time through a special assessment.
Attorney Donna DiMaggio Berger, who represents the association, said it’s common for owners to vote not to set aside money for repairs over the years because it’s so expensive.
″It’s up to the members, and the majority of members can vote to waive reserves each year, and in far too many communities we do have members that vote to waive reserve each year, so much that the Florida legislature mandated that there be disclaimer language on the voting material. So the owners understand if they continue to fail to fund reserves, it’s going to potentially subject them to very large assessment like we saw here,” DiMaggio Berger said.
The owners were also advised that when performing concrete restoration work, it is impossible to know the extent of the damage to the underlying rebar until the concrete is opened up. Condominium owners were told that the damage could be more extensive and expensive.
Who ultimately is responsible is still under investigation.
“The board is already in the process of hiring an engineer to also try to figure out what happened, and they will be evaluating who’s responsible,” DiMaggio Berger said.
One condominium board member and her adult children are among those missing after the collapse.