Florida did it first. Now New Jersey has done it. Could New York be next?
Following Florida's lead in the wake of the deadly Champlain Towers condominium collapse, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has signed a law that puts in place additional procedures and regulations for the inspection, evaluation and maintenance of the structural integrity of residential co-ops and condos.
"The goal of this legislation is to make sure that a tragedy like Champlain Towers doesn't happen in New Jersey," Matthew Earle, a co-op and condo attorney at Kates Nussman Ellis Farhi & Earle and the chairperson of the New Jersey Legislative Action Committee, tells The Bergen Record. "There were multiple failure points of Champlain Towers. There was the structural failure of the building, and there were also difficulties in having enough funding available to do the work, or even the board's availability to raise the funding."
To overcome two common hurdles facing co-op and condo boards — the building's governing documents and residents' unwillingness to pay for necessary repairs — the law rearranges past hierarchies. "This legislation supersedes governing documents that limit boards' authority to levy assessments or borrow money for a justified structural repair," says Ed San George, owner and president of Integra Management Corp. and vice chairperson of the committee that drafted the legislation.
Buildings constructed after the signing of this legislation will need to have their first inspection within 15 years. Buildings 15 years old or older will need to have an inspection within two years of the legislation's signing. For buildings that experienced an event that may lead to structural damage, such as severe weather or a vehicle crashing into them, an inspection must be done within 60 days of the event.
Only qualified professionals, such as New Jersey-licensed engineers and architects, are authorized to conduct these inspections, the McLaren Engineering Group notes. Once the assessment is completed, these qualified inspectors must submit comprehensive reports outlining the condition of the structure, any necessary maintenance work that must be done, and a timeline for future inspections. The law requires building inspectors to flag even minor issues like foundation cracks, material deterioration or compromised load-bearing elements.
Finally, the law requires boards to conduct a reserve study to determine the amount of reserve funds necessary in the case of major repairs or replacement of common building elements. Boards with an existing reserve study have five years to update it. Boards in newly constructed buildings have two years to get a study done, and boards in existing buildings that haven't conducted a reserve study have one year to do so.
Among those involved in drafting the legislation was Mitch Frumkin, president of Kipcon Engineering in North Brunswick.
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