What would happen if a condominium were destroyed by a hurricane?
Every declaration of condominium includes language that addresses reconstruction, said Ellen Hirsch de Haan, a lawyer with the Largo office of Becker & Poliakoff, which specializes in condo law. Usually this is right after the section of the documents dealing with insurance.
Typically the language provides that the condo can be dissolved if a certain percentage of the units are uninhabitable (75 percent is common), or if the damage is so substantial that a certain percentage of the insurance coverage becomes payable. Again, 75 percent is common.
In some cases, those conditions trigger a vote by the members about whether to rebuild. In other cases, those conditions are enough to dissolve the condo. The percentage of votes needed to rebuild or not to rebuild may vary: Some documents require 100 percent, some 75 percent, some only a majority.
Older documents, de Haan said, are more likely to require higher percentages. More recent documents, written after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, call for smaller percentages.
If the decision is to dissolve the condo and not to rebuild, the property is sold and the proceeds are distributed to the owners according to percentage of ownership.
If the decision is to rebuild, that would be done with insurance money and assessments of the unit owners.
Florida lawyers have been watching these laws closely since Andrew. De Haan recalled that two condos west of Homestead Air Force Base, in the Naranja Lakes area, were wiped out. "The remaining owners were holding meetings on the concrete slabs," she recalled.
The documents in those cases required that 75 percent of the membership vote not to rebuild, "but we couldn't find everybody," de Haan said. The court stepped in and required a lower percentage of the vote not to rebuild and oversaw the sale of the property and distribution of proceeds.