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Charleston Evacuation Order Highlights Need for Comprehensive Building Inspections

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

The recent evacuation order for Dockside Condominiums, the tallest building in Charleston, has highlighted the importance of comprehensive building inspections for attached dwellings.

The 19-story harborfront structure has over 100 condo units that typically sell for upward of $500,000. The evacuation order was issued because the building's support columns had been damaged, and engineers couldn't assure Charleston officials that the building could withstand the added weight of firefighting crews in an emergency.


Salt Water Damage

Dockside is the latest to join a growing list of the nation's coastal structures, especially condominium towers, facing expensive structural repairs to avoid the risk of collapse. In Florida, 98 people died two years ago when a 12-story condo tower fell. In October, residents of Renaissance Tower got one hour to evacuate the 22-story condo just south of Myrtle Beach because the columns holding it up were so severely damaged.



The age of a building and its level of maintenance are critical factors to consider when purchasing any attached dwelling, whether it be a townhouse or a high-rise condominium. The salt in the air and water near coastal areas can accelerate structural issues, leading to expensive repairs that could put the safety of the building at risk. The potential costs associated with building repairs and maintenance can also pose a significant financial burden for property owners.


Last summer, unpermitted structural repairs came to a halt when asbestos was uncovered in the building. The city is now giving the Dockside HOA until 2/27/23 to come up with a plan to stabilize the building and remove the asbestos or evacuate.


Need for Building Inspections

Comprehensive building inspections are crucial for any real estate transaction involving an attached dwelling. It is essential for real estate agents to educate their clients about the importance of budgeting for potential repairs and factoring in the age of the building and its location. Due diligence is necessary to assess the level of maintenance required for any attached dwelling. Real estate agents should encourage their clients to conduct comprehensive inspections of the building's structure and history of repairs to ensure the safety and financial well-being of the property owner.


The situation in Charleston serves as a reminder that building inspections are essential for any attached dwelling. In the case of Dockside Condominiums, the building's engineers asked the state Department of Health and Environmental Control for an expedited asbestos permit in May 2021, but the work never moved forward because a contractor hadn't furnished a detailed plan for how to remove the asbestos. Asbestos removal is necessary for the building to complete the emergency stabilization work needed to keep it safe.



Advising Our Clients

Real estate agents should prioritize their clients' safety by educating them about the potential risks associated with purchasing older attached dwellings and the importance of comprehensive inspections before closing a sale. By prioritizing safety and conducting due diligence, real estate agents can ensure a successful real estate transaction for their clients.


In summary, the recent evacuation order for Dockside Condominiums highlights the need for comprehensive building inspections for attached dwellings. The age of a building and its level of maintenance are critical factors to consider when purchasing any attached dwelling. Due diligence is necessary to assess the level of maintenance required for any attached dwelling, and real estate agents should encourage their clients to conduct comprehensive inspections of the building's structure and history of repairs to ensure the safety and financial well-being of the property owner.


How would you advise a client living in Dockside that needed to sell right now? Discuss it with a colleague in an upcoming CE Class or leave a comment below!

References

Kropf, Schuyler. "Charleston mulling Dockside Condos evacuation order over structural safety questions." The Post and Courier, 16 Feb. 2023.

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