Canadian Lawyer

September 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 39 of 51

38 LEGAL REPORT LOOKING AT the devastation surrounding the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Florida, it's easy to wonder if that kind of disaster could ever happen in Canada. There is no definitive answer yet on what happened to the suburban Miami building. However, the incident revealed that deferred maintenance, construction issues, salt-re- REAL ESTATE Condos in crisis? The collapse of Champlain Towers South in Florida points to the dangers of ageing condos and underfunded reserve funds, writes Zena Olijnyk lated erosion and even some foundation problems created a deadly mix of circum- stances that led to the collapse. There has never been a similar tragedy in Canada — water leaks, popped-out balco- nies and windows that fall out are about as bad as it has gotten here so far. The Canadian Condominium Institute — which advocates for condo owners — says that among the 113,000 condominium corporations across the country, there has never been a major structural failure in a condo building. Provincial governments (which have juris- diction over condos) generally have stricter regulations than most of their U.S. coun- terparts, though some provinces have more stringent rules than others. Regular inspec- tions are required to spot potential problems before they become catastrophic. And almost all condo buildings must put money aside in a reserve fund to pay for future repairs. Neither of those things is mandatory in Florida. But these more rigid rules don't mean there aren't significant gaps or that condo boards have an easy time when it comes to telling their neighbours that major costly repairs are needed, which might lead to increased condo fees or even a special assessment. "Owners, tenants and those who sit on condo boards need to take a lesson from Surfside when it comes to ensuring the struc- tural integrity of their buildings," says Toronto- based condominium lawyer Denise Lash.

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