First, it should be noted that this is a developing story, and information continues to come out regarding who knew what and when, so it may be premature to blame anyone for this horrible accident at this point in time. However, it is important to take this opportunity to reflect on best practices for all condominium boards of directors.
In light of this tragedy, I would recommend the same thing that I have been recommending for nearly 50 years to condo boards, which is that they have an absolute obligation to maintain, repair, and replace the common elements of their condominium, notwithstanding the cost of doing so. Unfortunately, too many condo boards believe that their job is to spend as little money at whatever cost. That may or may not be a reflection of the position of a majority of the co-owners, but regardless, the board should be trying to make the condo project a better place to live, which includes properly ensuring that it is structurally sound.
Do not put off addressing structural issues, period. Hire the appropriate engineers and other experts to do the work that is needed, and do not simply go with the cheapest option. If the money is not in your reserves, consider an additional assessment and speak with a lender about financing options.
This is a wake-up call for every person on a condo board. They have not only a civil legal and fiduciary responsibility to do the right thing, but they may also be held criminally liable for gross negligence embodied in a manslaughter charge. Perhaps the courts will be more inclined to take immediate action when claims of lack of diligence in maintaining and replacing community or condo structures are brought to the courts’ attention. And perhaps board members will now be more open to the advice of their attorneys who have preached the need to do the right thing, as we have always done.
– Robert Meisner