Courtesy of the Miami Herald
Posted November 13, 2005
Hunkered down from Wilma on the fifth floor of the
historic Art Deco Mantell condominium, J.P. Faber and his son Nick, 14,
heard a bang and then a swoosh in their Miami Beach studio.
''Some object blew right in a balcony door
panel,'' Faber says, ''and scattered glass all over.''
In Pompano Beach, Maria Tisa-Knapp had just walked
out of her unit at the Silver Thatch when she heard a loud explosion
''like a bomb.'' Wilma had shattered all but two of her unit's windows
and patio doors.
|Around South Florida,
many condominiums suffered a surprising amount of damage
from an underestimated hurricane: Roofs were ripped off,
buildings flooded, windows broken, walls toppled, doors
torn off, air conditioning units flung away and boat docks
''There was serious damage inflicted
by this storm that will take a long time and a lot of
money to repair,'' says Helio De La Torre, an attorney
whose Miami-based firm represents more than 500 community
''The insurance will not pay for
this fully and owners will have to dig into their
Many complexes will have to levy
special assessments, since most have hefty insurance
deductibles, usually hundreds of thousands of dollars,
says accountant Monte Kane, whose Miami-based firm serves
more than 100 community associations.
condo association's insurance usually pays for the
exterior damage, including broken windows and patio doors.
Individual owners or their insurance companies are
responsible for damage inside the unit. At some
At the Silver Thatch in Pompano Beach, 80 percent of windows
were blown out.
usually older ones, individual owners are responsible for their units'
Wilma turned out to be a wake-up call for condo
owners to become as vigilant as homeowners were after Andrew destroyed
wide swathes of South Dade in 1992.
During last month's storm, many windows and patio
doors weren't protected with shutters. People didn't bother to haul in
their balcony planters and furniture -- which ended up smashing others'
windows and patio doors.
''There was a lackadaisical attitude on some
people's part,'' says Tom Roses, president of the property management
division of Continental Management Co., which manages more than 600
Indeed, debris was blamed for a lot of Wilma's
damage. From her King Cole Condominium unit in Normandy Isles, Lisa
Frankel was amazed to see a roof blow off a nearby building. Tar and
roofing materials ended up swirling in the sky. She says her complex
lost about 90 windows, and she attributes at least some of that damage
to the flying debris.
Though engineers have yet to pinpoint the reasons
for many broken windows, poor installation or inadequate maintenance
likely contributed to some failures.
For the most part, Wilma preyed on condos built
before the tougher hurricane codes went into effect. But some new
Miami-Dade high-rises, constructed under the post-Andrew rules, also
took heavy hits. At least one insurance company has hired an engineering
firm to figure out why.
At one new building in Miami-Dade, the family
watched in horror as Wilma blew out the sliding glass windows of their
18th-floor luxury condo and sucked out the couches, said Continental's
Roses. Wilma then tossed the furniture into an eighth-floor apartment.
He says he has found one clue to why some windows
failed: They may have been improperly installed in a few pricey new
buildings his company manages in Miami-Dade. He refused to identify the
Workers, for example, didn't drill enough screws
in the frames that anchor the windows to walls, Roses says. Some window
frames had only one screw drilled every three feet, when the gap was
supposed to be 12 to 18 inches.
''It was not the quality of glass but the
workmanship,'' he says. He says the new high-rise condos his company
manages in Fort Lauderdale lost only one window.
The damage to new buildings also shows that city
inspectors must become more vigilant in overseeing finished work, says
John Pistorino, who wrote Miami-Dade's first workmanship construction
codes after Andrew and has been hired by an insurance company to look at
new high-rise destruction.
''I guess I am frustrated and mad, not only for
the turmoil of units owner who are going through this -- but we know
they [buildings] shouldn't have failed,'' Pistorino says.
Damage was much more widespread in older condo
buildings, in some places so severe that hundreds of residents were
ordered out of their homes.
The city of Lauderdale Lakes declared unsafe about
500 units in Hawaiian Gardens, a sprawling coral-colored condominium
complex built around 1970. Commissioner David Shomers estimates about
4,000 to 5,000 people live there.
Now, Jocelyn Desbiens only has to look up in her
third-floor condo to view the damage: She can see the building's wooden
rafters. Pink and white insulation covers her living room couch. Mold is
growing in her bedroom.
''I have nothing left,'' says Desbiens, who is
staying in West Palm Beach. ''I lost everything I had.''
In Pompano Beach, the Silver Thatch condominium
board and management company quickly sopped up water, boarded up windows
and threw tarps over damaged roofs to save their 362 residents from
being forced to leave.
BOARDS AND TARPS
The result is not pretty, with a virtual wall of
plywood covering the 24-year-old complex's two buildings.
''We lost about 80 percent of the windows,'' says
property manager Tisa-Knapp, whose own unit at the complex was
But at least residents can stay at home while
crews renovate the complex. That may take as long as 18 months, Tisa-Knapp
At the 5-year-old Pinnacle in Sunny Isles Beach,
condo board president Jad Shor is also warning about months of waiting.
The association has to order specially made windows to replace about 17
that were shattered when a roof from a nearby older building came off
and hurled debris into the luxury high-rise.
''We were lucky,'' Shor says. ''I tell you the
[Pinnacle's] construction was good. The damage was minimal. This is a
structurally sound building.''
In Aventura, the Coronado Condominium Association
is waiting for insurance adjustors to let them know how much they will
pay for two ruined roofs at the 30-year-old complex. Indeed, the damaged
roof over the rec building may not even be covered: Its deductible is
$295,000, says property manager Nury Vazquez.
So owners of the Coronado's 760 units are looking
at a steep special assessment. ''We had no reserves,'' she says.
At the Mantell in Miami Beach, where most of the
damage was to the lobby's windows and door, condo board president Ray
Breslin is frustrated at the wait for Citizens Property Insurance to
send an adjustor so he can start repairs.
''Our lobby windows are custom tempered glass, and
we can do nothing until the insurance company contacts us,'' he says.
In the next-door 1940s-era Helen Mar condominium,
the association had another headache: doing repair work for several
out-of-town owners and billing them. The Helen Mar is one condominium
that requires owners to pay for their own broken windows. But the
association is ending up overseeing many repairs.
''We're trying to get a company out to make
repairs,'' says the building's maintenance man, Lenny Williams.
The problem: None of the businesses he called had
glass to replace 14 to 15 windows.
''They ran out,'' he says.