The City of Bradenton, Florida, sent a letter to all thirty-six units of a condominium building, stating that the six year old building had been found unsafe by the city fire marshal. The city ordered the residents to move out within seven days. To paraphrase one of the residents living in the building; imagine coming home to your condominium thinking about your evening or the weekend ahead, and then finding out that you only have seven days to move out and find a place to live.

The structural problems seem to have begun about five to six years ago with repairs to a stairwell. A structural engineer’s assessment found rotting wood and the problems worsened and may be related to stucco work by subcontractors. That is the position taken by the association, which has filed a lawsuit against developers, subcontractors and others related to the project. Among other things, the lawsuit alleges that the materials and installation methods were insufficient and allowed water to leak through the vapor barrier and cause wood rot. While the cause of the water damage is likely in dispute, it is undisputed that there is wood rot that has resulted in a partial collapse of the building.

The rotting wood supports the two stairways on opposite sides of the building. In the month or two before requiring the residents to vacate, the City had a list of precautions for the association to take, such as:

  • -having a fire watch person there at night in case of a fire;
  • -reconstructing the stairways;
  • -lining the sides of the wall of the structure with wood supports; and
  • -improving the sprinkler system

The association was making efforts and spending money to remedy some of the issues on the City’s list. Yet, the City still required them to vacate. The City has stated that its top priority is the residents’ safety.

It is shocking that a municipality can force residents to vacate their homes in seven days’ time, particularly in this economy and when the association was spending some of its own money to remedy the structural problems. The association also says they have engineers who told them the building does not need to be vacated. Although I am not involved in this case, I felt compelled to comment on this disheartening story. The importance of life, liberty and property is deeply rooted in the ideals forming our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Seven days to vacate is drastic, and it seems certain to force some of these units into foreclosure. How could most people afford to pay their mortgage, taxes and assessments on the condominium and find another place to live?

It is unknown when the residents can return to their homes. The lawsuit against the developers and subcontractors for the alleged construction defects is scheduled to go to trial in April. Hopefully, there will be a resolution soon for this association before it is too late.