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Firm ties building flaws to damage

Apartment buildings at the Landings at Boot Ranch West show a lot of deterioration for their age, and the rot is partly because of poor construction, says a summary of a consultant's study of the buildings.

The full 45-page report, done by Ayers Associates, is scheduled to be released next week. The county hired the independent structural engineering firm after two people in five months partly fell through the floor in first-floor bathrooms.

Residents were not in immediate danger and will not be relocated, according to county spokeswoman Marcia Crawley.

Joe Borda, the managing partner of the company that owns the complex and a certified engineer, said he also hired an independent consultant.

Friday, Borda said he did not want to discuss that firm's findings and that he had not seen or heard about Ayers Associates' results. He was repairing the property during the inspections.

"Everyone worked together to make sure that everything was safe," Borda said. "The buildings were made safe a long time ago."

The buildings at the complex, which is west of East Lake Road and north of Tampa Road, were finished by 1998. Rent for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment is $890 a month.

Six of the eight buildings at the complex on Katherine Boulevard were built on wooden pilings. At the county's request, Ayers Associates inspected the first floors of Buildings 1 through 5, Building 8 and the clubhouse.

The firm was asked to give a damage assessment of the subfloor sheathing plywood and examine other elements that support the floors, the summary said.

That inspection found that the wood-framed floor systems were highly deteriorated for a 9-year-old building. The summary said the main problems included rotting in the plywood sheathing, mainly around areas with plumbing or at the lanais, and support beams over the pile supports.

The cause of rot in the subfloor sheathing is related to poorly installed tile or other floor coverings, according to Crawley.

Engineers also attributed floor sheathing problems to moisture that came from above and from water that had collected in the crawl spaces. A list documenting areas that needed immediate repairs were in the full report.

The firm recommended removing the rotted sheathing and replacing it with new plywood using methods approved by the county. Borda should improve the moisture resistance of the floor systems from above as well, the consultants said.

Floor joists were generally in good condition, though Building 8 had some with termite damage that needed treatment, the firm found. Joists in the clubhouse were rotted and had poor repairs.

Borda said the plywood in all of the buildings was recently replaced with pressure-treated plywood that won't rot. A woman fell thigh deep through the bathroom floor of her mother's first-floor apartment in August.

Borda said the prior management company let water collect underneath the buildings. He said new pumps were installed to keep moisture out.

The second incident happened late last month, when a man also partly fell through a first-floor bathroom.

A final report should be released Friday, Crawley said, after a public works engineer signs off on the findings. Then staff from the county's building department and environmental management's code enforcement division will request a meeting with Borda, Crawley said.

The county will also ask to see the report from the engineers whom Borda hired, she said.