What happened in Surfside is a tragedy. No question. What was the cause? Just about everyone is pointing fingers and it may be that we will never know for certain—it is likely the result of a series of failures by various individuals, agencies and laws. Included among the possible causes in press reports are failures of governance—both that the Board waited too long to make the needed repairs and that the unit owners opposed assessments the Board sought to impose. It has been reported that a petition challenging an assessment was pending at the time of the collapse.

New York has certain regulatory requirements, but boards are concerned. Could this happen in their building? More to the point of this article, if an appropriate professional tells a board that there are dangerous conditions, or repairs that must be made for the safety of the residents, can the board cause the repairs to be made? Or will it require unit owner approval, which may be virtually impossible to get? It depends on that building’s documents.