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Condo law, insurance, oversight, engineering. Surfside collapse could change a lot

Joey Flechas and Douglas Hanks, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

Experts from NIST who are conducting the analysis include two structural engineers and a geotechnical engineer specializing in soil and rock mechanics. They are looking at evidence samples from the site.

“This is a fact finding, not fault finding, type of an investigation,” said James Olthoff, the NIST director. “It will take time, possibly a couple of years.”

INSURANCE

The way insurance claims are paid out after this disaster could have long-range ramifications. The state’s insurance regulator has requested all insurers to submit information about any policies associated with Champlain Towers South. It’s the type of notice from the Office of Insurance Regulation that typically follows hurricanes.

The office has not specified what it planned to do with that data, but in the past, the office has tracked the filing and payment of claims. Following Hurricane Michael in 2018, data collected by the office later showed that nine months after the storm ripped through the Panhandle, insurers had yet to pay more than 21,000 claims.

Court proceedings following the collapse have provided a general view of the insurance picture. A receiver for the Champlain recently said the property had $48 million of insurance coverage held by the condo association — $30 million for property damage and $18 million for personal injury. Some insurers have already paid or have committed to paying full personal injury coverage. One other insurer appears ready to commit to the full property damage coverage.

 

The industry, which already considers older condos higher risks in a state where hurricanes pose an annual threat, is bracing for potential changes. Barry Gilway, president and chief executive officer of state-run insurer Citizens Property Insurance, told his board to consider making tighter requirements before writing any condo policies. That could mean a “full structural integrity engineering report” might be needed before a condo could get property insurance.

He said he expects to see some private insurers pull out of the condo market.

“There’s going to be a pretty significant upheaval to residential condominium business, and we have to be prepared as far as what our position’s going to be and how rigid our position’s going to be.”

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(Miami Herald staff writers Mary Ellen Klas, Ana Ceballos, Rene Rodriguez, Douglas Hanks, Alex Daugherty, Linda Robertson and Martin Vassolo; Herald writer Luis Joel Méndez González; and el Nuevo Herald staff writer Ana Claudia Chacin contributed to this report. Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau staff writer Lawrence Mower also contributed.)

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