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Subject: Earthquake Bracing
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Author Messages
CharlotteB2
(Oregon)

Posts:22


11/20/2021 6:36 PM  
Our board is considering adding earthquake bracing to all units through a special assessment ($300,000 between 22 units). Is this a repair (no owner vote needed) or a capital improvement (owner vote required). Does anyone have any experience determining this? We are probably going to ask our legal counsel for their opinion, but I was curious if any other board members faced this decision.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:10584


11/20/2021 7:04 PM  
You may want to talk to your insurance as well. Get their opinion. Will it help any or change coverage? Is this just one sales pitch from 1 company? I would get atleast 3 quotes and check out their work.

I do not live in an earthquake zone so to speak. We do get them but not on a daily basis such as California. However, have watched a many of documentaries on the subject matter. Retrofitting an existing building may cause a ripple effect. I would definitely get ALL members on board with this one. There could be damage involved. Which could lend them to have to look at their own insurance policies.

Former HOA President
TimB4
(Tennessee)

Posts:17841


11/20/2021 8:00 PM  
I think it hits a grey area.

It's not really a capital improvement.
It's more then a repair.

My suggestion, have a special meeting for this and hear feedback from the membership prior to making any decisions.
LetA
(Nevada)

Posts:1462


11/20/2021 8:13 PM  
Have you consulted a civil engineer to see if that is necessary?
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2588


11/21/2021 5:38 AM  
I'm assuming that these are condos, otherwise the HOA/COA wouldn't even be considering this except for maybe a clubhouse. I agree that you should get professional opinions: structural engineer, insurer, and lawyer.

My concern is that there is no right answer here.

If you've discussed it, owners aren't in favor, and then you get hit by an earthquake, those same owners will file lawsuits as soon as they dig out of the rubble. If the pros are in favor and you get your special assessment (which as Tim said may be considered a capital improvement and require owner approval) and then there's no earthquake, those same owners will b!tch that the board has wasted money. Basically damned if you do and damned if you don't.

At the very least you should look into beefed up insurance, assuming you can get it. Homeowners should also look at additional coverage to supplement their HO6 policies, assuming they can get it.

(Interesting facts: the strongest earthquakes on this continent actually occurred along the New Madrid fault located just west of Tennessee. New forecasts estimate a 7 to 10 percent chance, in the next 50 years, of a repeat of a major earthquake like those that occurred in 1811–1812. FEMA predicts "widespread and catastrophic damage across Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and particularly Tennessee" should that occur. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1811%E2%80%931812_New_Madrid_earthquakes.)
AugustinD


Posts:1905


11/21/2021 5:40 AM  
Hi CharlotteB2,

-- Has the city, county or a structural engineer opined on whether the condo needs the earthquake bracing? What events have happened that have caused your board to considering earthquake bracing?

-- When was your condominium built?

-- What year was your Condominium created? Look in the Declaration, maybe especially the date that the county recorder stamped on the documents.

-- By every definition of capital improvement on the net that I read, the proposed earthquake bracing appears to me to be a capital improvement.

-- What exactly does your Declaration say about unit owners having to vote on approval of adding a capital improvement?

-- From the Oregon Condo Act:

-- (9) Except as otherwise provided in the association’s declaration or bylaws, the board of directors of the association may modify, close, remove, eliminate or discontinue the use of a general common element facility or improvement or portion of the common element landscaping, regardless of whether such facility, improvement or landscaping is mentioned in the declaration or shown on the plat provided that:

(a) This subsection does not limit the authority of the board of directors, in its discretion, to seek approval of such modification, closure, removal, elimination or discontinuance by the unit owners; and

(b) Modification, closure, removal, elimination or discontinuance other than on a temporary basis of any swimming pool, spa or recreation or community building must be approved by at least a majority of the unit owners voting on such matter at a meeting or by written ballot held in accordance with the declaration, bylaws or ORS 100.425.
BenA2
(Texas)

Posts:1104


11/21/2021 5:56 AM  
I think it is a stretch to call it a repair if you are not actually repairing damage. At best, it is not clear, in which case I would err on the side of letting the owners decide. With it being a gray area and the cost being so high per owner, you are begging for a lawsuit.

The reason governing documents do not usually require owner approval for repairs is that they are necessary to maintain the status quo. That is not the case here.
AugustinD


Posts:1905


11/21/2021 8:40 AM  
Posted By CharlotteB2 on 11/21/2021 8:23 AM
Our units were built in 1974 and are post and pier, there is no foundation. The units are riverfront, but sit above the water on a mild slope. The structural engineer said bracing needs to be installed to attach the main support beams to the driven wood piles. That is to stop any lateral movement. The work proposed is much more significant than adding bracing, and much more expensive. It would be good to add earthquake bracing, but i[f] the cost is significant so I believe owners should have a vote on the matter. The board is calling it a repair so the owners don't get to vote, but I am the lone member who feels we should listen to the owners and let them vote on it.
CharlotteB2, please clarify the following:

-- Is the bracing "to attach the main support beams to the driven wood piles" needed for earthquake protection? Or is this bracing needed for general, structural integrity, regardless of whether an earthquake occurs?

-- If the bracing is needed right now, even if an earthquake were never to occur again, and the Declaration does not require a vote of the owners, then I believe the board is obligated to do it. Think Surfside Condo collapse. The board had no obligation to obtain a vote of owners. The board failed to act. We may never know for sure, but arguably the board's failure to act caused the building's collapse. Safety first. If a structural engineer says xyz needs to be done, and second and third opinions from other structural engineeers agree, and no owners' vote is required, the board is obliged to make the repair and assess owners accordingly.
CharlotteB2
(Oregon)

Posts:22


11/21/2021 8:42 AM  
The bracing is for structural integrity, not for earthquake movement; we live on a manmade island comprised of sand.
CharlotteB2
(Oregon)

Posts:22


11/21/2021 8:44 AM  
The Florida condo collapse was years in the making and a much different scenario. No one objects to the bracing; the structural engineer said homeowners could add the bracing themselves or hire a handyperson to do it. The proposed earthquake bracing is much more extensive and units with finished lower levels will need to have drywall removed and replaced. It is two different projects.
CharlotteB2
(Oregon)

Posts:22


11/21/2021 8:47 AM  
Condos were built in 1974. We have a structural engineers report that says bracing is needed to attach the piers to the main support beam. The condominium was created in the 80's, as they were apartments prior to condo conversion. Our Bylaws say any capital improvement over $10,000 needs a vote of the owners.
CharlotteB2
(Oregon)

Posts:22


11/21/2021 8:51 AM  
We obtained a structural engineers report that said "we recommend that positive mechanical connections be installed to attach the main support beams to the driven wood piles where necessary". Not all units required this, but most did. The proposed earthquake bracing is for all 22 units and also proposed to pour new concrete footings.
AugustinD


Posts:1905


11/21/2021 8:55 AM  
Posted By CharlotteB2 on 11/21/2021 8:44 AM
No one objects to the bracing; the structural engineer said homeowners could add the bracing themselves or hire a handyperson to do it. The proposed earthquake bracing is much more extensive and units with finished lower levels will need to have drywall removed and replaced. It is two different projects.
For the purposes of discussion, I am going to call the bracing as follows:

Bracing A = bracing all owners agree is needed

Bracing B = additional bracing, for earthquake protection, costing $300,000


Bracing A Questions:

-- You say that owners could add Bracing A themselves. Could the failure of an Owner to add Bracing A affect other units?

-- Does the Declaration say that each owner is responsible for Bracing A, because the bracing has nothing to do with common area?

-- Does the Declaration, in so many words, say the HOA can require each unit to install Bracing A?

-- Or does the Declaration, in so many words, say the HOA has the legal right to pay for all units' bracing A, because of the effect on common areas if a failure occurs (due to not installing bracing)?


Bracing B Questions:
-- Have any structural engineers recommended this? Has the HOA obtained two additional opinions and bids for this bracing?
CharlotteB2
(Oregon)

Posts:22


11/21/2021 9:02 AM  
Not all units need the bracing; and the HOA will pay the cost for the units which need it. The board obtained only one bid; I believe we need at least 2 bids.
AugustinD


Posts:1905


11/21/2021 9:16 AM  
Posted By CharlotteB2 on 11/21/2021 9:02 AM
Not all units need the bracing; and the HOA will pay the cost for the units which need it.
What wording in the Declaration supports the HOA paying for Bracing A for the units which need it?
MaxB4
(California)

Posts:1594


11/21/2021 9:21 AM  
My suggestion would be to treat this as a capital improvement and have the owners approve the special assessment. You may not need their approval for a capital improvement, but I would guess you need it for the special assessment.

The HOA IS the owners, so even if it doesn't say anything about earthquake bracing, which it won't, having the owners legally approve such a move would, in effect, be the same as amending the CCR to do the same.
AugustinD


Posts:1905


11/21/2021 9:36 AM  
Posted By AugustinD on 11/21/2021 9:16 AM
Posted By CharlotteB2 on 11/21/2021 9:02 AM
Not all units need the bracing; and the HOA will pay the cost for the units which need it.
What wording in the Declaration supports the HOA paying for Bracing A for the units which need it?
I am asking this because, if the HOA undertakes a repair/improvement that per the Declaration is the responsibility of an individual owner, then the HOA has just taken responsibility for any harm done if the repair/improvement is inadequate and is furthermore, responsible for ongoing maintenance of this repair/improvement. Under the latter circumstances, the HOA should have an owners' vote to amend the Declaration so that the HOA has the maintenance responsibility for Bracing A.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:11659


11/21/2021 10:01 AM  
I say this is a Capital Improvement albeit for safety.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2588


11/21/2021 11:15 AM  
Posted By AugustinD on 11/21/2021 9:36 AM
Posted By AugustinD on 11/21/2021 9:16 AM
Posted By CharlotteB2 on 11/21/2021 9:02 AM
Not all units need the bracing; and the HOA will pay the cost for the units which need it.
What wording in the Declaration supports the HOA paying for Bracing A for the units which need it?
I am asking this because, if the HOA undertakes a repair/improvement that per the Declaration is the responsibility of an individual owner, then the HOA has just taken responsibility for any harm done if the repair/improvement is inadequate and is furthermore, responsible for ongoing maintenance of this repair/improvement. Under the latter circumstances, the HOA should have an owners' vote to amend the Declaration so that the HOA has the maintenance responsibility for Bracing A.



Agree, this sounds like a huge liability risk unless the Declaration supports the association doing this. As noted, a new reserve study plus additional insurance would also be needed because of the additional maintenance obligations.
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